California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill Tuesday banning state operated or funded organizations from portraying homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality in a negative light.
The bill has drawn strong criticism from conservatives and religious groups that say the bill will restrict the ability of individuals and institutions to express their religious viewpoints against homosexuality.
"This is a dark day in California for everyone who believes in the importance of religious institutions," said Brad Dacus, president of Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute in a statement released Tuesday. "Governor Schwarzenegger has betrayed the trust and civil rights of Californians who hold traditional, religious opposition to certain types of sexual behavior."
Senate Bill 1441 was authored by State Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Calif.), a lesbian, and adds "sexual orientation" to the anti-discrimination list for state-funded programs and organization. California law now requires no person be denied "full and equal access" based on sexual orientation or sex to any program or activity which is funded directly by the state or "receives any financial assistance from the state."
The new bill’s impact was described as "wide-ranging and deep" by the Senate Committee Report on SB 1441. The report states that it will also affect contractors with the state (such as nonprofits) which are directly funded by the state or contractors receiving any financial assistance from the state.
A key issue highlighted by several groups opposed to the new bill is the potential ramifications for churches and Christian colleges in California.
Focus on the Family (FOTF) Action chairman Dr. James Dobson and FOTF Action senior vice president of government and public policy Tom Minnery pointed out during Wednesday’s radio broadcast that the bill could result in a church no longer being able to receive police or fire protection if the pastor preaches from biblical passages against homosexuality
SB 1441 has also caused concerns among faith-based colleges. Burt Carney, director for legal/legislative issues at the Association of Christian Schools International in Colorado Springs – an association with more than 800 members in California including 26 colleges and universities - said colleges could be significantly affected because most accept students on state scholarships and grants, according to the southern California news agency The Press-Enterprise Company.
"SB 1441 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 pro-family group Campaign for Children and Families (CCF) in a public announcement.
Last week, Christian colleges in California faxed letters to Gov. Schwarzenegger to veto the bill, according to CCF. Christian colleges involved in the letters urging the veto of the bill include: Westmont College in Santa Barbara, The King’s College and Seminary in Van Nuys, Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Trinity Law School in Santa Ana, Life Pacific College in San Dimas, Simpson University in Redding, Shasta Bible College in Redding, and William Jessup University in Rocklin.
However, SB 1441 will not affect all faith-based schools. Most private grammar and high schools will not be affected by the new legislation because they do not receive state funding. And other Evangelical Christian colleges, such as Azusa Pacific University and Cal Baptist, believe their sexual misconduct policies will remain the dominant policy regarding sexual behavior despite the new bill, according to The Press-Enterprise Company.
Both Azusa Pacific and Cal Baptist have sexual misconduct policies that call for disciplinary action for premarital sex regardless of a student’s sexual orientation. Moreover, Cal Baptist does not receive any state funding so will not be affected by the bill.
Currently, California is in the midst of several legislations involving sexual orientation and public policies including:
• SB 1437 which prohibits textbooks, instructional materials, and school-sponsored activities from “"eflecting adversely" on transsexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality;
• AB 606 which authorizes the California superintendent of Public Instruction to withhold state funds from any district that does not "adequately" promote the State Department of Education’s "model policy" promoting transsexuality, bisexuality and homosexual curriculum in public schools; and
• AB 1056 which would use $250,000 tax dollars to promote transsexual, bisexual, and homosexual lifestyle under the name of "tolerance education."
Meredith Turney, legislative liaison for Capitol Resource Institute, a California-based pro-family advocacy group, stated, "As a citizen of California and a religious person, I am terribly disappointed in Governor Schwarzenegger.
"It is bad public policy to add to the list of protected classes a sexual behavior," she said. "Equating sexual preference with the immutable characteristics of age, national origin or race will result in other variable behaviors being added to the list of invariable classes rightfully protected."