California’s religious schools have fought and won against a California legislator and LGBT groups that wanted to expose them to anti-discrimination lawsuits.
Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens introduced Senate Bill 1146, the “Equity in Higher Education Act,” backed by gay rights organizations, which would have forced religious schools receiving state money or enrolling students who depend on the Cal Grants financial aid program to comply with California’s anti-discrimination laws or risk being sued. It passed the state Senate on May 26.
The bill would have forced the religious schools to provide housing for same-sex married couples as well permit transgender students to use the bathroom based on their gender identity. Lara one of the seven-member California Legislative Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Caucus, which advocates for LGBT rights, wrote The Daily Signal, “Under state law, at least 34 California universities are exempt and do not have to comply with state nondiscrimination laws, leaving thousands of students open to discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. These universities have a license to discriminate and students have absolutely no recourse. Addressing this issue is long overdue.”
As Archbishop José H. Gomez, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Bishop Charles E. Blake, pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ and Presiding Bishop of the worldwide Church of God in Christ, noted, the bill would have hurt much of their constituencies:
Many of the schools that would be affected by this legislation participate in the federal government’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HIS) initiative to expand Latino access to higher education -- schools such as California Lutheran, Azuza Pacific, Fresno Pacific, Notre Dame de Namur, among others. To qualify for HIS status means these schools have student populations that are at least 25 percent Hispanic. Many of these students are children of immigrants and the first in their families to attend college. We question why lawmakers would want to make it harder for Latinos and other minorities to receive an education by potentially denying their schools the opportunity to redeem Cal Grants.
The Association of Faith-Based Institutions, which was created only two weeks ago, gathered $350,000 from religious schools, prompting Lara to remove the portion of the bill that would have enabled students who felt discriminated against to sue the school. The bill does require the religious schools to publicly disclose their exempt status from non-discrimination laws so students wishing to attend the school are made aware of the school’s status.