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Homosexuality and bisexuality

Four 2006 bills & laws in California
impacting sexual orientation & gender identity

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Sponsored link.


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Overview:

Four anti-discriminatory bills were introduced to the California legislature during the summer of 2006. The impression given by many religious news services was that these bills dealt solely with the promotion of homosexuality. In reality, the bills are aimed at reducing bigotry and discrimination against persons of all sexual orientations -- heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals. In addition, the bills protect transgender persons from denigration. Promotion in these bills is limited to tolerance.

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SB 1437: "Bias-free Curriculum Act:"

When SB 1437 was introduced, state law prohibited school instruction, text books, other instructional material, and school-sponsoring activities that denigrate people on the basis of their race, sex, color, religious belief, degree of ability, national origin or ancestry. SB 1437 simply adds sexual orientation and gender identity to this list. It impacts the curricula at private schoolsthat accept Cal Grants college grants from the state. Faith-based childcare centers that accept children with CalWORKS childcare vouchers would also be affected.

bulletThe clause that protects against denigration on the basis of sexual orientation equally protects all:
bulletHeterosexuals -- those attracted to members of the opposite sex,
bulletHomosexuals -- those attracted to members of the same sex, and
bulletBisexuals -- those attracted to both men and woman, although not necessarily to the same degree.
bulletThe clause referring to gender identity equally protects:
bullettransgender persons -- individuals whose gender role (whether they perceive themselves to be a man, a woman, or describe themselves in some less conventional way) 1 does not matches their biological gender, and
bulletThe majority of persons whose gender roll matches their biological gender.

In practice, almost all hatred and bigotry is directed against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons, so these would be the groups who would be protected most by this bill. This group is often referred to as LGBT.

The California Legislative Counsel's Digest states that:

"The bill would also expand the definition of discrimination under these provisions to include a perception that a person has any of these enumerated characteristics or that the person is associated with a person who has, or is perceived to have, any of these characteristics." 2

A surprising number of heterosexual students are harassed and abused because they are perceived to be homosexual.

In practical terms, the bill would prohibit teachers from saying that homosexual orientation is immoral or wrong, just as they could not state that African Americans, handicapped persons, women, or Catholics are inferior or less than first-class citizens.

This bill was sponsored by Equity California (EQCA) and introduced by state Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), who is a lesbian. In its origin form, it would have required public schools to discuss the history and achievements of homosexuals bisexuals and transgender people in the U.S. However, in the face of a veto promised by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), that provision was dropped. An Republican-sponsored amendment would have required parental permission. It was rejected by a vote of 26 to 48.

The Campaign for Children and Families (CCF), a nonprofit conservative group, suggested that SB 1437 would ban texts that restrict marriage to a union of one man and one woman; or sex ed classes that discuss male and female sexual development; or the selection of only one male and one female as school representatives. Their president, Randy Thomasson, said: "If you can't say anything negative [about homosexuality] that means you have to promote it."

Kuehl, said that this is "balderdash." When asked for examples of what speech or activity would be banned by the bill, SacBee.com reported: "she said it might prevent a teacher from stating inaccurately that AIDS would not exist if not for gays, for example, or prohibit school field trips to any group that's 'organized to bash gay people'." 3

The bill was passed with a comfortable majority on almost a straight party-line vote. Forty-five Democrats and one Republican voted in favor; 30 Republicans and one Democrat voted against it. Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill on 2006-SEP-06. Material that denigrates people on the basis of their race, sex, color, religious belief, degree of ability, national origin or ancestry will continue to be prohibited. Material that denigrates people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity remains legal.

Comments on the bill:

Most religious conservatives are distressed at the bill. They believe that it interferes with their religious freedom to teach that homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender persons are choosing a sinful, immoral lifestyle. Most liberals and members of sexual minorities support the bill because they believe it will remove homophobia and bias against transgender persons from the curricula of public schools.

bulletAssembly Speaker Fabian Nez, (D-Los Angeles), said: "We'll send a message here that California is above it, that each and every person in our schools is going to be treated with the love and respect they deserve."
bulletAssemblyperson Dennis Mountjoy, (R-Monrovia), described the bill as a dangerous form of "social experimentation." He said: "This is not about discrimination, it's about acceptance. You want us in society to accept homosexuality as normality -- and it's not."
bulletGeoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, a gay-positive group, said: "It's really stopping the use of taxpayer money for hate speech and discrimination."
bulletAssemblyperson Chuck DeVore, (R-Irvine) said that SB 1437 "seems to be a bill in search of a problem that doesn't exist."
bulletRandy Thomasson, president of CCF said:

"We call upon Governor Schwarzenegger to keep his promise to veto SB 1437, which micromanages public schools by forcing them to promote a gaggle of sexual lifestyles that disturb parents and confuse kids. If Schwarzenegger abandons children by signing any of these school indoctrination bills, pro-family voters will abandon him.

bulletAssembly Speaker Fabian Nez, (D-Los Angeles), said:

"Harassment occurs each and every day," [The bill] says to LBGT students that they, too, are human. Let's send that message to those students, that they matter, that their humanity is just as important as anybody else's." 3,4

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SB 1441: "Nondiscrimination in State Programs and Activities Act"

SB 1441, was also sponsored by Equity California (EQCA) and introduced by state Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica). It requires all businesses, schools and institutions that accept any state money to not discriminate against homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals. The bill did not include a religious exemption, so that state funding could be removed from non-conforming religiously-based child care centers and private schools that accept CalWORKS childcare vouchers and Cal Grant college grants. As for the companion bill SB 1437, most religious conservatives are distressed at the bill. They believe that it interferes with their religious freedom to teach that homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender persons are choosing a sinful, immoral lifestyle, or to discriminate against them. Again, it only applies to groups that receive funding from the state. CCF, a conservative advocacy group, referred to the legislation as "The religion-squashing transsexual-bisexual-homosexual agenda bill." 5 Most liberals and members of sexual minorities support the bill because they believe it will reduce homophobia and bias against transgender persons by California organizations.

The California Legislative Counsel's Digest states that:

"Existing law prohibits discrimination on the basis of, among other things, race, national origin, ethnic group identification, religion, age, sex, color, or disability, against any person in any program or activity conducted, operated, or administered by the state or by any state agency, or that is funded directly by the state, or that receives any financial assistance from the state. Existing law ... This bill would add sexual orientation to these provisions ... The bill would also expand the definition of discrimination under these provisions to include a perception that a person has any of these enumerated characteristics or that the person is associated with a person who has, or is perceived to have, any of these characteristics." 6

The bill states:

"11135. (a) No person in the State of California shall, on the basis of race, national origin, ethnic group identification, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, color, or disability, be unlawfully denied full and equal access to the benefits of, or be unlawfully subjected to discrimination under, any program or activity that is conducted, operated, or administered by the state or by any state agency, is funded directly by the state, or receives any financial assistance from the state."  6

The bill protects against denigration on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It equally protects all heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, non-transgender and transgender persons. In practice, almost all discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is directed against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons; so these would be the groups who would be protected most by this bill.

Comments on the bill:

bulletGeoff Kors, EQCA executive director of EQCA said:

"I'm proud that SB 1441 has earned the distinction of being the first EQCA-sponsored bill to pass the Legislature this year. Once again, California is leading the way in providing the most comprehensive nondiscrimination protections in the country, and for that we thank the tremendous leadership of Senator Kuehl and our many partners in the legislature." 7

bulletRandy Thomasson, president of CCF, said:

SB 1441 will force religious colleges to either abandon their Biblical standards on sexuality, or reject students with state financial aid. Schwarzenegger is doing what Gray Davis did trample religious freedom at the bidding of liberal activists from San Francisco and West Hollywood. Arnold Schwarzenegger has two faces. He speaks at churches and says he believes in religious freedom and family values, yet hes stabbing pro-family Californians in the back. People of faith are suffering under Arnold Schwarzenegger. Hes not the lesser of two evils, hes doing evil." 8

bulletSenator Sheila Kuehl, who introduced the bill said:

"I am very pleased that my colleagues passed this measure and supported the principle that everyone should have equal access to the programs and services provided by our government. With Governor Schwarzenegger's signature, this bill will close an important gap in California's nondiscrimination laws." 7

Governor Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law on 2006-AUG-28. Gay Rights Watch commented that: "Governor Schwarzenegger ... has signed more pro-GLBT laws than any other Governor in California history--and probably in the US for that matter." 9

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AB 606: "Safe Place to Earn Act:"

Bill AB 606 is sponsored by Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys). As of 2006-AUG-29, the bill is in the Senate.

The text of the bill notes that:

"Studies show that pupils in California continue to experience discrimination and harassment, and that discrimination and harassment based on actual and perceived gender identity and sexual orientation is particularly pervasive." 10

Existing legislation prohibits discrimination against students on these grounds. This bill would require each school district to create and publicize an anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy protecting persons of all sexual orientations and gender identifications. As above, it would mainly protect homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender students because they receive the brunt of discrimination and hatred against sexual minorities.

The bill would repeal certain provisions of the California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000, namely those clauses that "...do not require the inclusion of specified instructional materials in any program or activity conducted by an educational institution or postsecondary educational institution."

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AB 1056: "Tolerance Education Pilot Program:"

Bill AB 1056 is sponsored by Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park). As of 2006-AUG-29, the bill is in the Senate.

It would authorize $250,000 to fund a voluntary tolerance education pilot program at ten public schools. It is designed "...to promote instruction on tolerance and inter-group relations as part of the instruction in the history/social science content standards..."

The bill defines "tolerance" as meaning:

"...attitudes and behaviors that convey respect toward individuals and groups, especially those individuals and groups that have been, and continue to be, systematically and historically marginalized. Tolerance does not mean a passive allowance or indulgence of the beliefs or practices of another individual."

The programs would be broadly based and might include coverage of:

"...discrimination based on actual or perceived gender, ethnic group identification, race, national origin, religion, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, immigrant status, familial status, or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics."

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References used:

  1. "Gender Identity," Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  2. The text of SB 1437 is available at: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/
  3. Jim Sanders, "Controversial gay-rights bill OK'd. Measure would ban demeaning actions in public schools," Sacramento Bee, 2006-AUG-22, at: http://www.sacbee.com/
  4. Troy Espera, "California Assembly Approves Ban on Anti-GLBT Materials in Public Schools," GayWired, 2006-AUG-22, at: http://www.gaywired.com/
  5. "Governor Schwarznegger signs SB 1441. Don't let Arnold off the hook - Call now to express your outrage," The Campaign for Children and Families, 2006-AUG-28, at: http://www.savecalifornia.com/
  6. The text of SB 1441 is available at: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/
  7. "SB 1441 Passes California Senate," Gay Rights Watch, 2006-AUG-14, at: http://www.gayrightswatch.com/
  8. "CCF Media: News Releases," The Campaign for Children and Families, 2006-AUG-28, at: http://www.savecalifornia.com/
  9. "Schwarzenegger Signs CA's SB 1441 Into Law," Gay Rights Watch, 2006-AUG-28, at: http://www.gayrightswatch.com/
  10. The text of AB 606 is available at: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/
  11. The text of AB 1056 is available at: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/

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Copyright 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 2006-AUG-30
Last updated 2006-AEP-08
Author: Bruce A Robinson

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