Month: October 2014


LGBT, Minority Rights Focus of Several Bills Signed in Last Legislative Session

By Monica Luhar, Oct. 14, 2014 – KCET

When KCET launched this government policy blog in the summer, a point was made to look at the intersection of policy and diversity. After all, California is one of the most diverse states in the country and has traditionally been a bellwether for LGBT issues.

At the state level, Governor Jerry Brown just wrapped up the latest session by signing hundreds of bills, many that we found to be related to diversity. In attempt to see the bigger picture, we’ve organized many of them below and we will continue to track future developments in government using policy to make California a place for people from all walks of life.

Signed Legislation

AB 2501: Eliminates Gay and Trans Panic Defenses

Assemblymember Susan Bonilla’s bill works to protect LGBT victims of crime by putting an end to gay and trans “panic defenses” — defenses used in court to exempt or reduce penalties for perpetrators of a crime. Defendants currently employ these protective tactics as a way to find probable reason for acting in such a manner. The result is that defendants are often able to justify discriminatory actions based on the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Signed into law, this bill will ensure that defendants cannot use “panic defenses” in murder, manslaughter, or lesser crimes, according to Equality California, the largest LGBT advocacy organization in California that co-sponsored the bill.

AB 1951: Adds Gender Neutral Option for Parents on Birth Certificates

Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, same-sex couples will be able to fill out the following options to reflect the accurate gender identity and relationship to a child: mother, father, and a gender-neutral option. Currently, there are two fields designated for a child’s birth mother and father. The new option would put an end to having LGBT couples forcibly decide between placing one partner in the “mother” and the other in the “father” field. Couples will instead have the chance to declare themselves as a mother, father, or simply a “parent.” The bill was authored by Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez.

In an earlier interview with KCET, Jim Faulker, spokesperson for Equality California, explained that the law will hopefully reflect the diversity of California families and match the proper gender identity of LGBT on birth certificates.

SB 396: Removes Discriminatory Language from California’s Law Books

This bill, authored by Senator Kevin de Leon, would repeal the provisions of Proposition 187, which was passed by voters in 1994 but later deemed unconstitutional.

Prop 187 denied undocumented immigrants basic rights to public education, health care, and other services in California. Although the proposition was unconstitutional and never enforced, the language still remains in California law. SB 396 removes the proposition’s hostile language from state law.

AB 2102: Collects Language Data for Healthcare Professionals

AB 2102 is Assemblymember Phil Ting’s second language access bill, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. The bill helps put California on the road to having a more culturally appropriate and sensitive healthcare workforce by collecting language access and demographic data for different healthcare occupations (registered nurses, nurse practitioners, respiratory care providers) in California.

The data may help the state identify and eventually resolve communication barriers that may exist between limited English proficiency patients and care providers.

Currently, more than 40 percent of Californians speak another language at home, and an estimated 7 million Californians speak English “less than very well,” according to the Office of Assemblymember Ting.

“More Californians than ever before have health insurance,” said Ting. “But this growth in coverage through Covered California may not lead to better health while communication barriers persist. We have an obligation to act to ensure good health outcomes for limited English speaking Californians.”

The bill is sponsored by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network and the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California.

AB 496: Mandates LGBT Training, Cultural Competency for Healthcare Providers

AB 496, authored by Assemblymember Richard Gordon, provides cultural competency training and a discussion of LGBT issues for health care providers. LGBT patients often experience unfair or inadequate treatment due to the inconsistency of health providers whose employees have not gone through special cultural competency training on LGBT issues. The bill would make it a requirement for providers to receive training and provide adequate services to address the needs of the LGBT community.

AB 1577: Requires Preferred Gender Identity on Death Certificates

Beginning July 1, 2015, a person in charge of completing a certificate of death would be required to accurately record a deceased individual’s sex as their preferred gender identity.

Known as California’s Respect After Death Act, the bill was authored by Speaker of the Assembly Toni Atkins and sponsored by Equality California and Transgender Law Center. It grants protections to transgender people and ensures that their preferred gender identity will be accurately reflected and identified on death certificates.

“The basic idea of the bill is to ensure that transgender people are respected after they pass by ensuring accurate death certificates that reflect authentic identity,” Jo Michael, legislative associate at Equality California, told KCET in an earlier interview.

AB 2646: Protects Minority Groups from Discriminatory Laws

AB 2646 is designed to prevent the enactment of discriminatory state or local laws by making it easier for minorities to challenge them. While the state and federal constitutions prohibit discriminatory laws, this bill explicitly makes it unlawful to enact a rule that hinders the political agency of any minority group. The bill’s author, assemblymember Phil Ting, has said he believes this will be useful in challenging discriminatory ballot measures.

“Under the bill, discriminatory statutes or ordinances can be challenged in court. The enacting body would be required to show the law is not discriminatory and serves a ‘compelling’ government interest.”

Vetoed Bill

AB 1565: Authorized Grants for Sensitivity Training for Veteran Services

A bill that would have authorized grants to nonprofit organizations in California for the benefit of culturally competent and sensitive training relating to LGBT issues was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. The organizations would then be directed to specifically provide services to LGBT veterans. “I appreciate the author’s desire to focus on the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender veterans, but creating a new grant program without a funding source is premature,” Gov. Brown said in his veto message.

If funding is identified in the future for a similar program, the California Department of Veterans Affairs would be a better entity to address the issue, Brown added.

Could an Indian-American Family Comedy Be Coming to Television?

Monica Luhar for NBC News – October 3, 2014 

Righter Imaging
Righter Imaging

Sunny Tripathy knows exactly what his new comedy television series about a South Asian family will not be.

“It will not be a show about curry, turbans, 7-Elevens — whatever stereotypes that are out there. It will be far from that. But you will learn and see things you might be familiar with that are reflective of South Asian identity and culture,” said Tripathy, creator of the viral comedy YouTube series, “Keeping Up With the Guptas.”

Tripathy, who has held various modeling and comedy stints on Last Teen Comic Standing and Mr. India Global, recently signed a development deal with 20th Century Fox for the creation of a possible television series based on his Indian-American family, the Tripathys.

"Keeping Up With the Guptas"RIGHTER IMAGING
Mother Sumita Tripathy, father Niranjan Tripathy, sister Suman Tripathy (played by Sumi Raman in “Keeping Up With the Guptas”); and web series creator Sunny Tripathy pose for a family photo during a New Year’s Eve party at the Tripathy residence in Northern Calif., Dec. 2013.

Earlier this year, Tripathy landed a much coveted general meeting with some of the top comedy executives and producers at 20th Century Fox. Tripathy initially thought he might have a shot at an entry-level writing position, or maybe even a gig as a writer’s assistant for one of Fox’s existing shows. But the conversation took a turn as Fox took an interest in stories Tripathy was telling about his family. The 24-year old walked out with a development deal for a potential show, and the opportunity of a lifetime.

“‘Keeping Up With the Guptas’ was great in that it helped get some visibility and name recognition,” said Tripathy. “It did extremely well and above all — people enjoyed, respected, and related to the series. That in itself was enough to at least get an opportunity to get people to read your material.”

“The best way to help understand other people’s cultures is by learning to love characters that are within that culture.”

The terms of the development deal were negotiated in May 2014, and a pilot script deal was signed, according to Tripathy. The deal memorandum from 20th Century Fox is now official and closed.

In 2010, the comedian, model, and screenwriter launched “Keeping Up With the Guptas,” a web series that accidentally became an overnight sensation despite its poor production value and basic budget.

"Keeping Up With the Guptas"VAYDER PHOTOGRAPHY
24-year-old Sunny Tripathy brainstorms a pilot script for a possible comedy television series at his home office in Los Angeles, Calif., Sept. 2014.

In the web series, the lives of the “Gupta” family are played by Tripathy’s parents — Niranjan and Sumita Tripathy, and his friends — Sumi Raman and Sahil Punamia. The series focused squarely on issues, frustrations, and every day situations familiar to most South Asian families, with stories revolving around arranged marriages, parental expectations, and generational differences.

Tripathy says the characters cast in the series are highly exaggerated and sensationalized versions of themselves. But that’s what seemed to resonate with viewers. “Keeping Up With the Guptas” has received tens of thousands of hits, including worldwide attention from fans all the way from Singapore.

"Keeping Up With the Guptas"/ RIGHTER IMAGING
The Tripathys pose as the Guptas, a fictionalized on-screen family from Sunny Tripathy’s viral YouTube comedy series, “Keeping Up With the Guptas.”

The characters in the series aren’t just bound by their racial identity — something Tripathy says has stood out and contributed to the series’ success. The family in the series is of South Asian descent, but their racial identity isn’t the main focus of every story.

For instance, in one scene in, Tripathy’s sister receives a B+ on an exam, much to her father’s disappointment. He then “happens to be” loading a gun while admonishing his daughter. In another scene, Tripathy’s mother cooks a meal for her daughter’s boyfriend, and then asks for him to pay.

“I don’t think there should be a need to find diversity. It should just exist”

Tripathy says scenes like this make it easier for mainstream families to relate to the everyday shenanigins and dramatic conversations that happen in any home, at the dinner table, or at family outings.

With his development deal, Tripathy hopes to address harder hitting issues, while using comedy as a backbone for bringing people together. Once a victim of a racial hate crime, he believes that laughter and comedy on television are vehicles to help people better understand different religions, races, sexual orientations, and cultures.

"Keeping Up With the Guptas"SUNNYTFILMS
A film crew prepares to shoot a few scenes from an episode of the web series “Keeping Up With the Guptas” with actors Sumi Raman and Sahil Punamia at a family friend’s home in Northridge, Calif., in 2011 — a year after the web series went viral.

“I think racial tolerance and cultural acceptance is something that is extremely important,” said Tripathy. “The best way to help understand other people’s cultures is by learning to love characters that are within that culture.”

Even though major television networks have made strides by casting minorities and people of color on television and creating shows like ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Black-ish,” experts and audiences agree there is still a long way to go to reach a point when diversity simply exists as a fact, not as a mission statement.

“I don’t think there should be a need to find diversity. It should just exist,” said Tripathy. “It’s unfortunate that it’s so limited. I wish there was a ton more diversity. It should be so well integrated in every show that we shouldn’t have to draw a distinction.”

“All I can say is that I consider myself a proud American and a proud Indian.”

Tripathy, who has met actress-comedian Mindy Kaling multiple times, says she’s a great example of someone who is proud of her culture, but is not solely defined by it.

“She is someone who is proud to be Indian American, but isn’t limited to just that. Similarly with my web series, the problems, conflicts and stories we told were about basic things,” he said. “We had stories about relationships, Christmas, arguments with parents, grades, marriage, and general cultural and generation gaps that exist in our lives.”

Tripathy says that strides made by South Asians in greater society need to be reflected in the media that serves it.

"Keeping Up With the Guptas"SANGRAM PATTNAIK
The Tripathy family celebrates sister Suman Tripathy’s 16th birthday at a park in Northern Calif. Oct. 2013. From left to right: Niranjan Tripathy, Suman Tripathy, Sunny Tripathy, Sumita Tripathy.

“I think especially in Indian culture, we are no longer just the random doctors and engineers. You have amazing people like Indra Nooyi, the CEO of Pepsi, who are Indian. You have Indians in politics. You have Indians running companies, writing books and making films that win Academy Awards,” said Tripathy. “Finally we have been appreciated and understood beyond just the stereotypes– so I think it’s important diversity in television reflects that.”

As for the future of his still-untitled show, Tripathy’s fate depends on whether or not the network buys the series. If it moves forward, he imagines the new family he creates will be different from the Guptas, though still inspired by the same things that first led him to create the series.

“All I can say is that I consider myself a proud American and a proud Indian. The struggles you will see are that of every American family, but through the eyes of an Indian culture,” he said. “I want people to better understand cultures. To better understand one another. And with this show, I hope to accomplish that through laughter.”

Snoop Dogg Makes Surprise Visit During Chicago Wedding

By Monica Luhar, The Aerogram, September 6, 2014

A Chi-town couple received quite the surprise when rapper Snoop Dogg decided to crash their wedding and get an up-close and personal photo op with the blushing bride and groom.

What better way to tie the knot than with Snoop Dogg as the best man, decked in shades and a million dollar smile?


Jus got Married

View on Instagram

Earlier this week, Snoop Dogg posted an Instagram picture chronicling his “Wedding Crashers” moment with the words, “Jus Got Married.”

The lucky couple to get photographed at the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago next to the king of rap was Neesha Ghadiali and Joe Scheller.

According to ABC News, the couple’s professional wedding photographer had initially spotted the LBC-born rapper and somehow managed to help facilitate Dogg’s brief, but memorable appearance with the couple.

ABC News writes:

“The groom’s mother, Mary Rose Frank, told the photographer ‘she was Snoop’s biggest fan,’ and the photographer convinced the artist’s entourage to make the introduction, Hagerman said. ‘They had a great conversation and a ton of laughs inside the bar,’ she said. ‘Snoop was a blast to be around.’”

Snoop Dogg is no stranger to crashing Bollywood movies, either. Check out this throwback rap cameo in Singh is Kinng.