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Calif. Gov. Signs Padilla Bill to Prevent Genetic Discrimination – Unruh Civil Rights Act Modernized to Reflect 21st Century

SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — California Senate Bill 559, a landmark civil rights protection bill authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown Tuesday night. The new law will protect Californians by prohibiting discrimination based on an individual’s genetic information. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2012.

“This new law enhances the civil rights of every Californian,” said Senator Padilla. “Ten years from now as more and more Californians obtain their genetic information they will look back and thank Governor Brown for protecting them from discrimination.”

Specifically, SB 559 will include genetic information as a prohibited basis for discrimination in the areas of housing, employment, education, public accommodations, health insurance coverage, life insurance coverage, mortgage lending, and elections.

In 2008, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). However, the federal GINA’s range of genetic information and nondiscrimination protections is limited to employment and health insurance coverage. SB 559 would ensure that the range of protections for Californians applies to all California civil rights laws and would include genetic information as a prohibited basis for discrimination.

“California led the nation with the passage of the Unruh Civil Rights Act of 1959. SB 559 updates and strengthens the Unruh Act and brings it confidently into the 21st Century by adding genetic information,” said Senator Padilla. “Discrimination on the basis of genetic information is no less offensive than discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation. California has a compelling interest in promoting and fostering the medical promise of genomics while relieving the fear of discrimination by strengthening laws to prevent it.”

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