California governor signs law requiring trans inmates to be housed by gender identity

The law requires inmates to be asked how they identify, then they must be housed accordingly.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law on Saturday that will require California prisons to house transgender inmates according to their gender identity.

The law requires officers to privately ask inmates if they identify as transgender, nonbinary or intersex. They must then be housed in the appropriate facility, and officers must refer to transgender inmates by their chosen pronouns.

Other legislation California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed requires better tracking of how diseases affect the LGBT community by public health officers, bans life and disability insurance companies from denying someone coverage solely because they have HIV. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Other legislation California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed requires better tracking of how diseases affect the LGBT community by public health officers, bans life and disability insurance companies from denying someone coverage solely because they have HIV. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation cannot deny those requests, the law says, solely because of inmates’ anatomy, sexual orientation or a “factor present” among other inmates at the facility.

It does note that management at a facility can deny the requests if there is a security risk; however, the inmate must be allowed to object to that decision.

Similar laws have been passed in Rhode Island, New York City and Massachusetts.

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Democratic state Senator Scott Wiener authored the bill and maintains that there is a “false narrative about transgender people and about transgender women in particular that they’re somehow not really women and are just trying to scam their way into women’s bathrooms or facilities in order to do bad things.”

He noted that “overwhelmingly,” trans people are victims of assaults in prisons.

“It means a lot to me and my sisters,” said Michelle Calvin, a transgender woman incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison, who recently called in to a news conference about the bill. “I’ve been in for 15 years. I’ve been through the abuse, I’ve been through the disrespect of staff not addressing me for who I am because I am a woman.”

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It was one of several LGBT-related laws that Newsom signed this weekend. Other newly-signed legislation requires better tracking of how diseases affect the LGBT community by public health officers, bans life and disability insurance companies from denying someone coverage solely because they have HIV and creates a Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund to provide grants to organizations that support the trans community.

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