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Here’s why Meals on Wheels is asking elderly Californians about their LGBT status

October 24th, 2018

Here’s why Meals on Wheels is asking elderly Californians about their LGBT status

 

Carol Alexander received a phone call from Sacramento County’s Meals on Wheels program last Friday and it wasn’t her usual case worker.
 
Alexander, 83, said she was hit with a barrage of about a half-dozen questions she considered invasive or unnecessary: What is your sex? Do you still associate with your gender? Are you heterosexual? Are you white or Hispanic?
 
“I was in shock. I took offense to that,” she said.
Alexander, who is white, said she didn’t understand why the surveyor asked whether she was Hispanic, but not about any other race. And the string of questions relating to sexual orientation and transgender status irritated her.
 
“I’m ticked off. Why do they ask an 83-year-old this?”
Alexander said the caller told her new federal law necessitated these questions, but as local Meals on Wheels Program Director David Morikawa explained, it’s actually a direct response to new state legislation.
 
Morikawa said a new California law requires meal-delivery services to issue sexual and gender minorities (SGM) survey questions, potentially to any and all of the program’s recipients. It had already surveyed participants about ethnicity. But response from the participants is voluntary, and won’t affect their service from the nonprofit organization.
 
“She doesn’t have to answer that,” Morikawa said.
As outlined in both Assembly Bill 959, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2015, and AB 677, signed last October, California’s LGBT Disparities Reduction Act went into effect July 1 this year.
 
Its first provisions call for four state departments, including the Department of Aging, to gather demographic data regarding sexual orientation and gender identity during the course of conducting surveys on ancestry or ethnic origin.
 
AB 959, penned by David Chiu, D-San Francisco, cites studies on same-sex couple poverty, hate crimes and health disparities as ample reason to collect widespread demographic data on the groups. LGBT populations have been found to have higher risk of cancer, mental illness, substance abuse and other adverse health conditions, Chiu explained.
 
“It is in the best interests of the state to respect, embrace, and understand the full diversity of its residents and to collect accurate data to effectively implement and deliver critical state services and programs,” the bill reads.
 
The departments of Health Care Services, Public Health and Social Services are the other three with the legislation taking effect this year.
 
There are more to come.
Seven additional agencies are due to adopt the policy by July 1: the Department of Education, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the Department of Industrial Relations, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the Labor and Workforce Development Agency, the Employment Training Panel and the Employment Development Department (excluding the unemployment insurance program).
 
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