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LGBTQ COVID-19 data collection in California’s SB 932 would be a first

Scott Wiener SB 932

California Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) speaks during a committee hearing Wednesday about SB 932, which require providers and county health agencies to collect data on the LGBTQ community and COVID-19. Photo: Screengrab.

California is on its way to be the first state in the nation to mandate LGBTQ data collection about COVID-19’s health impact on the community.

California already collects data on other groups, including Asian, black, Latino, and Pacific Island, as well as age and sex. By examining that data, public health officials have learned which groups have higher death rates and what health disparities impact various groups.

However, public health officials have no information about how COVID-19 has impacted the LGBTQ community, even though the community is more vulnerable to COVID-19 due to various health disparities, such as higher rates of HIV, respiratory illnesses, and less access to health care, making LGBTQ individuals more vulnerable to COVID-19.

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Earlier this month, Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) penned an Op-Ed for Q Voice News this week advocating for such data collection.

Wiener authored a bill on the issue, and today, in a unanimous 9-0 vote, the state Senate Health Committee approved SB 932. This landmark legislation requires county and state health reporting systems to include sections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

The bill also orders health providers to collect that voluntary data from patients and report it to the county health agencies.

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“Today, we took a big step forward in passing an important piece of health legislation for the COVID-19 era,” Wiener said in a statement.. “SB 932 will allow us to understand COVID-19’s impact on the LGBTQ community, which has long been forgotten or underserved in the public health world. It will ensure no one gets left behind, and set the stage for broader and more equitable access to healthcare for the long term.”

Equality California sponsored the bill, and executive director Rick Zbur gave testimony during the committee hearing.

“If LGBTQ+ people are left out of the data, then outbreaks can’t be detected and deaths won’t be prevented,” Zbur said. “That’s not conjecture. It’s not hyperbole. It’s the truth.”

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Wiener’s bill was born out of frustration. Wiener and Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego)  sent a letter in early April to Gov. Gavin Newsom, asking him to instruct county health agencies to collect LGBTQ data on COVID-19.

When that request was ignored, Wiener authored the bill. 

Earlier in the day, during a virtual press conference, Wiener and public health advocates blasted the governor and public health officials for dragging their feet on the issue and doing nothing to help the LGBTQ community.

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Elected officials who identify as part of the LGBTQ community also have been part of the problem and pushed the community back into the closet.

Long Beach has its own health department, one of only two cities in Los Angeles County, but health officer Dr. Anissa Davis has refused to collect the data, saying it’s “not the standard” and “now isn’t the time.” 

Mayor Robert Garcia, who identifies as gay, has refused to press the department on the issue.

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About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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