(San Francisco, CA, October 7, 2015)—California Governor Jerry Brown signed a landmark bill that protects transgender people who work for companies doing business with state agencies. Senate Bill 703 builds on existing California law and prohibits state agencies from entering into a contract in the amount of $100,000 or more with any company that fails to offer equal benefits to all employees regardless of their gender identity.

Equal benefit laws, starting with San Francisco’s landmark equal benefits law passed in 1996, are credited with the rapid expansion of benefits for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees and creating a marketplace for insurance companies to start offering policies providing benefits for same-sex couples. Authored by Senator Mark Leno and co-sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Equality California, and Transgender Law Center, the law will go into effect on January 1, 2016.

“In signing SB 703, Governor Brown has made California the first state in the nation to refuse to contract with businesses and other entities that discriminate against their transgender employees in benefits,” said NCLR Government Policy Director Geoff Kors, who drafted San Francisco’s Equal Benefits Ordinance in his former role as legislative chair of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club. “This legislation will not only help transgender employees but will also help California businesses since California already prohibits health insurance carriers from denying transgender individuals benefits offered non-transgender individuals and will thus level the playing field with entities from out of state that bid for contracts with California. Once again, California’s governor and legislature are leading the nation in ending discrimination and ensuring that taxpayer funds don’t go to those who discriminate.”

“California law already stipulates that employers cannot deny transgender people health care and other benefits, but a loophole in state law has allowed companies that contract with the state to refuse equal health coverage,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “This bill closes that loophole. Denying equal benefits to employees at the same company based on gender identity is harmful and wrong. It also can jeopardize employee health and strain publicly-funded programs that fill in the gaps when employers don’t provide the same benefits to everyone.”

Read more about Senate Bill 703.