Senate passes Randall bill to eliminate barriers to reproductive health care

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Senate voted 28-17 today to pass the Reproductive Health Access for All Act (RHAA).

Senate Bill 5602, sponsored by Sen. Emily Randall (D-Bremerton), prohibits health care discrimination on the basis of immigration status or gender identity. 

“Our state has a proud history of protecting and expanding reproductive freedom,” said Randall. “But our transgender and undocumented neighbors have faced continued discrimination and barriers to care. This bill protects the most vulnerable communities and provides access to the essential health care they need and deserve.”

The RHAA creates a state-funded program to cover family planning services for undocumented Washingtonians who would be eligible for the federal Take Charge program if not for their immigration status. It also prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in all reproductive health services covered by Medicaid and private insurance plans. In addition, it extends reproductive health care access requirements to student health plans.

Last year, the Senate passed Sen. Steve Hobbs’s Reproductive Parity Act (SB 6219), which required all insurance plans in Washington state that cover maternity care to also cover the full range of reproductive health services.

The bill now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate passes legislation to create LGBTQ Commission

OLYMPIA — Legislation to create a state commission to work with state agencies to develop and implement policies to address the unique needs of the LGBTQ community passed off the Senate floor today on a 34-14 vote.

Sponsored by Sen. Claire Wilson, Senate Bill 5356 would direct the governor to appoint commissioners who present a balanced and diverse representation of race and ethnicity, geography, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, and occupation.

“This will help members of our community whose identify puts them at extreme and disproportionate risk of violence, discrimination and other challenges,” Wilson said. “This commission can address the unique obstacles LGBTQ people encounter in everything from public school settings, to employment, to everyday interactions in our communities.”

Among other things, the commission would be directed to identify concerns specific to LGBTQ sub groups, such as LGBTQ people of color, individuals in the DD community, veterans, seniors, and many others.

You can hear Wilson’s thoughts on the need for this legislation by clicking on this short video.

Senate passes Wilson bill for comprehensive sexuality health education

Science-based, comprehensive sexuality health education would become a required component of public school curriculums, under legislation passed today by the Senate on a 28-21 vote.

“People call this sex education, but it’s about much more than sex,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), the bill’s sponsor. “It’s about personal health, it’s about important life decisions, it’s about medical and economic consequences — all the things we want our young scholars to understand so that they can make the best choices for their health and their future.”

Senate Bill 5395 would require public schools to provide evidence-based, sexual health education curricula from a list developed by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) or from other sources that satisfy OSPI guidelines.

Among other things, the curricula must:

  • encourage healthy relationships based on mutual respect and free from violence, coercion, and intimidation;
  • teach how to identify and respond to sexually violent attitudes or behaviors; and
  • emphasize the importance of affirmative consent before engaging in sexual activity.

“Many students are sexually assaulted or coerced into having sex, or find themselves in abusive relationships,” said Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island), who chairs the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. “At its core, this bill is about safety. It’s about making sure that students have a safe place to ask questions, fully understand consent, and have the information they need to make safe decisions.”

Wilson, who is vice chair of the committee, said the curriculum does not direct teachers to instruct students on how to have sex, as has been incorrectly alleged by some; to the contrary, it is proven to reduce unintended pregnancy and STDs.

“The overwhelming majority of Americans, including parents and young people themselves, believe students should have access to comprehensive sexuality health education in middle school and high school and developmentally,” Wilson said. “Information is power. It’s time we do a better job of sharing it.”

SB 5395 would require schools to provide comprehensive sexual health education to students in grades 6-12 by Sept. 1, 2020, and to students in grades K-5 by Sept. 1, 2021.

Having passed the Senate, SB 5395 now goes to the House for consideration in that chamber.

Senate passes new protections for LGBTQ youth

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Senate today took a significant step to protect LGBTQ youth by passing legislation to ban so-called “conversion therapy” and require school districts to adopt or amend anti-harassment policies to include transgender students.

“It is long past time for Washington to make it clear to our LGBTQ youth that we value their safety and affirm that they too deserve protection as they navigate their young lives,” said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, sponsor of Senate 5766 and Senate Bill 5722. “I am thankful to my colleagues in the Senate for taking this stand today to put people first and make Washington more inclusive for all.”

One of the seven openly LGBTQ members of the Legislature, Liias and his colleagues have heard from countless families about the need to make our communities and schools safer for their children.

“In the last year, 29 percent of LGBTQ youth attempted suicide, leading to countless tragic deaths that might easily have been saved,” added Liias. “Banning the barbaric practice of ‘conversion therapy’ and taking active steps to reduce bullying, harassment and intimidation will literally save people’s lives.”

In addition to requiring school districts to adopt updated anti-bullying policies, SB 5766 will also create a district-level primary contact for the new measures and direct the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop mandatory anti-harassment training.

SB 5766 passed on a 30-18 vote. SB 5722 passed on a 32-16 vote. They both now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 

Statement on Washington state’s commitment to a discrimination-free environment for all students

The members of the Washington State Legislature’s LGBTQ caucus jointly released the following statement on Washington’s commitment to ensuring all students have the right to a discrimination-free environment:

“Washington’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal, was both clear and firm in his statement this morning about the protections transgender students have under state law. In light of yesterday’s action by the Trump Administration, it is reassuring to know our state not only has strong anti-discrimination laws on the books, but that our state’s chief school administrator is firmly committed to upholding those laws and ensuring every student feels safe and welcome in our public schools. We join Supt. Reykdal in this commitment, and stand arm in arm with our transgender sisters and brothers, as well as with all who are working to end discrimination wherever it exists.”

Statement on the state Supreme Court’s decision in Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers

The members of the Washington State Legislature’s LGBTQ caucus jointly released the following statement on the state Supreme Court’s decision in Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers:

“This morning, our state’s highest court unanimously confirmed discrimination is always wrong. While Washington’s constitution provides strong religious freedom protections, it doesn’t permit one’s religious beliefs to violate our anti-discrimination laws. A business providing goods and services to the public doesn’t get to discriminate against some people under the guise of religious freedom. This is a victory for equality and tolerance in the state of Washington.”