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Sen. Christine Kehoe’s historic bill clears legislative panel

SACRAMENTO – The first bill in the nation to include gender identity, sexual orientation and same-sex relationship status in state government surveys has made it out of committee.

The Survey Data Inclusion Act (SB 416), which would require the State of Califonria to add questions about sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, domestic partnership status and the gender of a spouse as voluntary demographic information collected in California's government surveys, passed the Senate Governmental Organization committee in a 7-5 vote.

Such data is already collected for other groups. The bill is authored by Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, and sponsored by Equality California.

“If California is to meet the needs of the LGBT community, then government agencies, non-profit organizations, and researchers will need more data about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender residents,” Kehoe said. “This information will be collected voluntarily and will help Californians better understand the lives and concerns of the LGBT community.”

Currently, the state administers a number of statewide surveys that collect data such as the California Health Information Survey (CHIS), the nation's largest state health survey that gives a detailed picture of the health and healthcare needs of California's large and diverse population, and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, a federal survey administered by the state that tracks health conditions and risk behaviors in the United States since 1984.

These and other statewide surveys collect demographic information such as race/ethnic identity, age, family size, health and safety information, and other data from the Californians. However, data relating to California’s LGBT population is not currently consistently collected by the state or federal government.

“The vast majority of government sponsored surveys that ask for demographic information do not collect data for the LGBT community, which has significant consequences for the community,” said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California. “With limited resources to spend on health and social services, it is essential that the state has data on LGBT Californians so that money can be targeted where it is most needed and community members can receive the resources they most need.”