Main | Wednesday, April 24, 2013

CALIFORNIA: Bill To Expand Rights For Homeless Clears Assembly Committee

Yesterday a bill that would expand the rights of homeless people passed 7-2 in the California Assembly Judiciary Committee.  Sponsored by openly gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, the bill could supersede San Francisco's famed/infamous ordinance which bans lying or sitting on public sidewalks.
Under the measure, a person's housing status would be added to the list of categories included in the state's antidiscrimination law, which applies to government entities and entities that receive money from the government. The other categories include race, national origin, ethnic group identification, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, color, genetic information or disability.

Additionally, the proposed bill lists 15 specific rights for people who are homeless, according to an analysis of the measure. Those include the right "to move freely, rest, solicit donations, pray, meditate, or practice religion, and to eat, share, accept, or give food and water in public spaces without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment or arrest." This would extend to parks for the entire 24-hour day, regardless of whether the park has hours that it is closed.
Ammiano's bill is a "scaled-down" version of one he proposed earlier and contains exemptions for cities that meet certain criteria.

RELATED: In 1975 Ammiano became California's first out public school teacher. Two years later he, Harvey Milk, and Hank Wilson co-founded the ultimately successful campaign against the proposed Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gay people from being teachers. In 1999 he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of San Francisco. (I voted for him.)

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