The LA Times reported this week that State lawmakers on Monday gave final legislative approval to a bill that would reduce knowingly spreading HIV from a felony to a misdemeanor. This bill would no longer treat knowingly exposing a sexual partner to HIV without disclosing the infection as a severly punishable crime.
The bill, SB 239, will be signed by the governor soon. It was introduced by Wiener, who said the current law discriminated against those who have human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, the precursor to AIDS.
Wiener said some people may choose not to be tested if it makes them liable for a felony should they expose someone they have sex with to HIV, suggesting that spreading HIV was a basic human right.
Infected people who donate blood or semen without disclosing that they have tested positive for HIV or AIDS, will no longer face harsh measures, because they reject “discrimination”. The current protection is “homophobic” and “discriminatory” against LGBT people, according to California state lawmakers.
“Right now HIV is singled out for uniquely harsh treatment as a felony,” Wiener said during the debate.
Republicans are outraged by the bill. Sen. Joel Anderson of San Diego, voted against the bill, saying it puts the genral public at risk. He called the bill “absolutely crazy”.
“I’m of the mind that if you purposefully inflict another with a disease that alters their lifestyle the rest of their life, puts them on a regiment of medications to maintain any kind of normalcy, it should be a felony,” Anderson said. “It’s absolutely crazy to me that we should go light on this.”
Anderson said tougher penalties should actually be extended to those who expose others to other infectious diseases. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 5 gay men has HIV.
Sen. Jeff Stone, a Republican pharmacist from Murrieta, told the LA Times taht it should remain a felony anyone exposed to HIV, would condemn that person “to probably $1 million in drug therapy for the rest of their lives”.
But Wiener argued that gays should not be “stigmatized” by laws preventing knowingly speading a deadly disease. “These laws do not prevent HIV infections,” Wiener said during the debate. “All they do is stigmatize people living with HIV and reduce access to testing and care.”
The bill is supported by groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the Black Aids Institute and Equality California, which advocates for the LGBTQ community.
California Democrats have taken up the LGBTQ+ cause as part of their “resistance” to President Donald Trump. In February, the Trump administration reversed an Obama administration directive on transgender bathrooms in public schools, allowing states and local communities to set their own policies once again.
In response, Wiener sponsored another bill which would make “misgendering” someone at a public health facility punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1 000 fine.
As of 2015, California has the largest minority population in the United States. Whites decreased from about 78 percent of the state’s population in 1970 to 38 percent in 2015.
California is also home to the “Gay Capital of the US”, San Francisco metropolitan area with a higher percentage of adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender than any other city in the country.
Gallup’s poll of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the US found that 6.2 percent of San Franciscans identify as LGBT, which is 2.6 percentage points higher than the national average.