A new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will allow the state to ask Californians some sensitive questions, including “what’s your sexual orientation?”

The question is meant to count LGBTQ Californians so the state can provide effective services.

Studies show that LGBTQ are more likely to:

  • Receive welfare and food stamps
  • Live in poverty
  • Experience employment discrimination both at work and when applying for jobs
  • Experience homelessness
  • Suffer from depression, PTSD and substance abuse
  • Attempt suicide

The questions about sexual orientation and gender identity are meant to collect data for departments such as the Department on Aging and service providers like Meals on Wheels. As bill sponsor David Chiu said, to provide services, citizens first must be counted.

Chiu also said the data on LGBTQ Californians would be collected only when the state is collecting data about other demographic groups.

Several new laws in recent years

The new law comes on the heels of 2017’s Gender Recognition Act which allows Californians to obtain documents that reflect their gender and creates a path to obtaining a nonbinary gender marker on state documents.

It also follows California’s requirement that requires employers of 50 or more employees to provide supervisors with two hours of sexual harassment training every two years.

What employers can ask, cant ask

Businesses are prohibited by the Fair Employment and Housing Act from discriminating against someone because they are transgender or gender non-conforming.An employer can ask a job applicant about their references and employment history, along with other non-discriminatory questions. Some of the things employers cannot ask include questions about include marital status, spouse’s name, relationship of household members and any planned surgeries.