Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. This July, as we build on the momentum of recent weeks, and work to make real progress in dismantling 400 years of systemic racism, it is clear that these goals our nation first outlined in declaring independence remain aspirational, and out of reach for many Americans. Since people all across the country started taking to the streets following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and too many other people of color, there have been changes in use-of-force policies, a growing emphasis on community-based law enforcement, the accelerated removal of racist flags and statues, and movement to eliminate racist roadblocks to equality and opportunity that have seeped into our lawbooks. As anger and grief have joined with power and purpose, there is now real resolve—and real hope that the stain that started in 1619, and which was preserved even in our great founding documents, may finally be removed from the fabric of our society.
In the Legislature, one of the biggest tools we have to help Californians enjoy Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness is the state budget, which helps shape our economy and create jobs, fund education and improve schools, and maintain vital services like fire prevention, affordable housing, and parks and recreation. The annual state budget, which takes effect July 1, will look a little different this year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its drag on the economy, several of the important investments we hoped to make this year will have to wait. The good news is that after ten years of responsible budgeting by the Legislature and the Governor, California was in the best shape possible to respond to this fiscal emergency, and our approach to the 2020-2021 budget has been to follow that responsible path.
Finally, as I write this, the U.S. Supreme Court is releasing its last round of decisions for the 2019-2020 term. Some of these decisions bring badly needed good news. It was important to see the Court recognize the rights of LGBTQ workers so they can’t be fired just for being who they are, protect Dreamers and other immigrants from being targeted for deportation by the Trump Administration, and protect abortion rights from further encroachment and erosion by red-state legislatures. These decisions also serve to remind us that we still have far to go, and provide even more motivation for all of us to do everything we can to bring about the changes needed in our country. There has to come a time when the rights of women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community aren’t dependent upon the kindness of strangers or the votes of justices. Like all Americans, our rights are inalienable and have to be respected that way. All we are asking is our chance to have what America celebrates this month: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Have a safe and happy Fourth of July.
Last month, I pledged to listen to the Black community’s outrage, pain, and frustration, and vowed to amplify the voices of those who are working to solve the deep-rooted issues of systemic racism. As part of that promise, I have invited Dr. Suzanne Afflalo to pen a piece for The Toni Times.
A family physician, active community member, and dedicated healthcare advocate, Dr. Afflalo retired from her position at Kaiser Permanente in 2015 after 23 years of service and is now the Medical Director of the Alliance Health Clinic serving the refugee community. She currently serves as the Vice Chair of San Diego's Health Services Advisory Board, is a board member of The UCSD Chancellor's Community Advisory Board, The Multicultural Health Foundation Board and The COVID-19 Equity Task Force just to name a few. In 2014, Dr. Afflalo created “A Healthier Me,” a healthy lifestyle program which provides support to African Americans with cardiovascular issues. I have deep respect for Dr. Afflalo and her lifelong dedication to healthcare, especially her focus on outreach and education in the Black community. - Toni
2020 has been a very stressful and unpredictable year so far. Within the last six months, the COVID-19 coronavirus has infected nearly nine million people around the world, caused over 468,000 deaths, overwhelmed the healthcare systems in many countries and crippled the global economy. COVID-19 has unequivocally captured everyone’s attention.
Unfortunately, communities of color have had the highest rates of infection and death caused by COVID-19 in the USA. There are numerous underlying reasons for this outcome, but the main cause is health disparities. Many factors directly affect the health of individuals and communities, including access to healthy food, housing, living conditions, clean air, clean water, transportation, economics, work environment, affordable health care and access to quality health care, which are all negatively impacted by structural racism. Lack of access to these things causes higher rates of chronic illness and disease in communities of color. These health disparities lead to poor health outcomes. Racism is a Public Health matter.
This pandemic inadvertently exposed the systemic racism which has been the root cause of the racial injustices inflicted on Black Americans. The recent brutal and untimely death of George Floyd and several other Black Americans at the hands of police and vigilantes, caused an awakening that ignited the unrest of millions of people across the globe. These multiracial and multigenerational groups are protesting in unity and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement against racial injustice and police brutality. People are finally understanding what Black Americans have been asking, pleading, marching, protesting and losing their lives for, to abolish the structural and systemic racism that has existed in this country for over 400 years. The overall goal is to create a fair democratic society that embraces equity, inclusion and diversity. This movement is calling on “privileged people” to help create this change. The protesting will not stop until police brutality is abolished and racial justice is achieved. Black Lives Matter
The U.S. Supreme Court issued four victories recently when it upheld protections for LGBTQ workers, DACA recipients, immigrants to California, and women.
The first win came on June 15, when justices handed down a 6-to-3 decision that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act barring sex discrimination in the workplace also protects LGBTQ workers from being fired on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
This ruling is monumental, and is a long overdue step in advancing protections for LGBTQ employees in our workplaces. Here in California, one of the first laws I wrote as a member of the Assembly clarified the definition of gender in certain anti-discrimination laws so that ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’ are included in references to gender.
Since 2012, that law has provided additional protections for California’s LGBTQ workers. The recent ruling by the Supreme Court affirms that protection throughout our nation, and was a welcome win to celebrate during Pride Month.
That same day, the Court rejected the Trump Administration’s challenge of the California Values Act, which prevents state and local law enforcement from sharing immigrants’ personal information with federal immigration authorities and transferring them to immigration custody. SB 54, authored by our former Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Leon, was, and continues to be, critical for public safety in our state.
Three days later, on June 18, the Court upheld the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for now. The program provides legal protections to youth brought to the U.S. as minors, also referred to as Dreamers.
We have more than 180,000 DACA recipients in California, and they deserve the opportunity to continue to go to school and work without fear, as well as access financial aid, which was the goal of the DREAM Act law that I co-authored in 2011.
The third week in June, in which we also commemorated Juneteenth, was a win for equality and immigrant rights, and truly felt like justice, and the rights of the people, continue to prevail.
Then, on June 29, the Supreme Court issued a 5-to-4 decision striking down a Louisiana law requiring doctors who provide abortions at clinics to have hospital admitting privileges, ruling that the law is ‘unconstitutional.’
The decision is encouraging, and sends a much-needed message to those seeking to strip away women’s rights to govern our own bodies.
Years ago, I served as director of clinical services at a women’s health clinic in San Diego, and worked with extremely talented physicians, nurses, and medical staff who provided exceptional levels of care and understanding to our clients. I’m thankful that clinics like that one will be able to continue to provide access to a broad spectrum of options, and that the Supreme Court upheld women’s rights to choose what is best for our bodies and lives.
America needed the positive outcomes of these cases more than ever, and we will keep fighting the good fight – with our policies and laws, in our courts, and at the ballot box.
Pride is our safe space, where we celebrate who we are and who we love. The LGBTQ community has endured many challenges. This year's theme ‘Together We Rise' is especially fitting as we enter a new chapter in the fight against racism, bigotry and violence. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, most of this year’s events will be virtual but there are still plenty of fun, safe ways to participate in Pride!
San Diego Pride’s virtual events include:
- Teen Versionary Virtual Program. July 6 - 17, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Apply in advance)
- She Fest. July 11
- Light up the Cathedral – An Interfaith Pride Celebration. July 15, 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
- Spirit of Stonewall Rally. July 17, time TBD.
- Virtual Pride 5K Run + Walk. July 18, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
- Pride Live. July 18, time TBD.
Time-honored American traditions that we look forward to each 4th of July will be a bit different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As you prepare to celebrate Independence Day, remember that the virus doesn’t take holidays off and neither do the necessary health precautions. Practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings, sanitizing frequently touched surfaces often, and limiting festivities to the people you live with will help curb the spread of coronavirus.
Visit San Diego County’s Coronavirus website for the most up-to-date health guidelines.
The California Department of Public Health is asking all Californians to use face coverings whenever they leave their homes. This statewide order requires face covering be worn inside (or in line to enter) any public space, in any health care setting, on public transportation, at work, and while using public outside spaces unless there is six feet of distance between all persons. These precautions, along with staying home whenever possible and washing hands often, will help slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep California on the path to reopening and economic recovery.
If you have participated in recent protests or helped at community clean-ups, and you weren’t able to keep six feet of physical distance between yourself and others, it is recommended that you get tested for COVID-19. Even if you are not sick, you could still carry and spread the virus to others.
If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as trouble breathing or persistent pain or pressure in your chest, call 9-1-1 immediately.
With so much going on in the world, people have been looking for ways to fight for change, be heard, and come together. One positive way you can directly affect change in your community is by filling out the Census. Data collected from the Census directs how much funding goes to local hospitals, schools, senior services, and much more – for the next 10 years. When a community is undercounted, their needs are underserved.
You can fill out the Census online at my2020census.gov or by calling 844-330-2020. Take a moment and help your community from the comfort of your home.
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