A Noteworthy Victory against Genetic Discrimination

Posted by Emily Beitiks August 24, 2011
Biopolitical Times
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Earlier this month, a California appellate court deemed unconstitutional a voter-approved measure that mandated collection of DNA samples from adults arrested, though not convicted, for felony offenses. This week, California has made another noteworthy move to prevent the misuse of genetic information. After bipartisan support from the State Assembly, the State Senate approved a bill by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) that makes discrimination based on genetics illegal.

The bill follows the 2008 federal Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which protects against health insurance and employment discrimination. However, Padilla’s bill goes further, extending nondiscrimination to housing, education, public accommodations, life insurance coverage, mortgage lending, and elections.

“Discrimination on the basis of genetic information is no less offensive than discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation,” Padilla remarked. “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.”

The Council for Responsible Genetics released a statement praising the bill’s passage. Executive director Jeremy Gruber explains, “Without meaningful privacy safeguards and protections against discrimination, the benefits of genetic testing will ultimately be lost as individuals avoid tests in the fear of adverse consequences.”  The bill is now headed to Governor Jerry Brown for approval.

Previously on Biopolitical Times: