Wednesday, August 30, 2006

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this week made it illegal for state-funded service providers, such as police and fire departments and universities, to discriminate against homosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered persons.

Senate Bill 1441, signed into law Monday by Mr. Schwarzenegger, “closes a crucial gap” in state civil rights law, said lead sponsor state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, who was backed by Equality California, a homosexual rights group.

But conservative groups say it will allow attacks on organizations that believe homosexuality is unnatural or sinful, and is an “assault” on religious freedom.

The new law will “force religious colleges to either abandon their biblical standards on sexuality or reject students with state financial aid,” said Randy Thomasson, president of the Campaign for Children and Families.

Numerous Christian colleges, such as Westmont College, Shasta Bible College, Trinity Law School and William Jessup University, asked Mr. Schwarzenegger to veto the bill, he said.

Day care centers, businesses and nonprofits that contract with the state or take state vouchers will be forced to choose between promoting homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality within their operations and work forces, including hiring practices, or forfeiting state funding, said Ron Prentice, chief executive of the California Family Council.

Miss Kuehl said the new law should ensure that homosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered persons can get state-funded services — including health care, recreational programs, financial aid, child support and food stamps — without bias.

She said “a person may still be denied crucial public services on those bases” and that the new law bolsters existing protections.

State law forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, education and public accommodations.

The new law “is an outright, blatant assault on religious freedom in California,” said Karen England, executive director of Capitol Resource Institute.

It will inevitably lead to a “legal assault against religious institutions,” said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute.

The tumult is far from over: The Democrat-led California Legislature passed a bill this week that would prohibit public schools from using textbooks or sponsoring activities that “reflect adversely” on homosexuality. Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, hasn’t said if he will sign it.

The newly passed bill, Senate Bill 1437, also sponsored by Miss Kuehl, would prohibit public schools from using textbooks or sponsoring activities that reflect “adversely” upon people because of their sexual orientation.

“[N]egative and hateful messages” about homosexual, bisexual and transgendered people “are still plaguing our schools,” said Geoff Kors of Equality California.

Conservative groups said the new bill would force schools to promote homosexual lifestyles and same-sex “marriage.”

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