California Law Requires Meals on Wheels to ask Questions on Sexuality and Gender

Last month, 83-year-old Carol Alexander received a phone call from the Meals on Wheels program from an unfamiliar case manager, reported the Sacramento Bee.

The Sacramento citizen was asked about half a dozen questions she deemed invasive: “What is your sex? Do you still associate with your gender? Are you heterosexual? Are you white or Hispanic?”

Alexander, who identifies as white, said that the only race she was asked about was whether she was Hispanic.

She was further irritated by the slew of questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.Though the caller claimed that it was federal law that needed these questions, the survey stemmed from new state legislation.

A new California law requires meal-delivery services to issue sexual and gender minority (SGM) survey questions to potentially any recipients.

Sacramento Meals on Wheels Program Director David Morikawa explained that the responses will not affect their service from the nonprofit organization. “[Alexander] doesn’t need to answer [the questions],” Morikawa said.

Signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2015, California’s LGBT Disparities Reduction Act was affected July 1 this year.

The first provisions call for four state departments, including the Department of Aging, to gather sexual orientation and gender identity demographic data while conducting surveys on ancestry or ethnic background.

David Chiu (D-San Francisco) argues that studies on same-sex couple poverty, hate crimes, and health disparities as reason to collect widespread demographic data about the groups.

“It is in the best interests of the state to respect, embrace, and understand the full diversity of its residents and to collect accurate data to effectively implement and deliver critical state services and programs,” the bill reads.

Chiu explains that LGBTQ+ populations have been found to have higher risk of cancer, mental illness, and substance abuse. These survey questions seek to better facilitate demographic data sets.

Despite its intentions, the survey questions bothered some nonprofit recipients.

Alexander found the recent survey so offensive that she considered leaving the Meals with Wheels program entirely.

“These are stupid,” she said of the questions. “It just blows my mind that they have to do this.”

Morikawa, the program director, said the questions are well-intentioned.

“We just want to make sure we’re representing the people that are in our community.”