Equality California (EQCA) is sponsoring two bills authored by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) that would prohibit the use of state funds to support entities that allow discrimination by creating exemptions based on religious beliefs.
“I’m proud to be a voice for the LGBT community throughout the state and across the country,” Low said. “The Golden State has always been a leader in protecting civil rights and preventing discrimination. Our zero-tolerance policy says there is no room for discrimination of any kind in California, and will certainly not be tolerated beyond our borders,” he added.
In California, laws such as the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation, and services provided by business establishments on the basis of specified personal characteristics such as sex, gender, race, color, national origin, religion, and disability.
However, a majority of states nationwide lack such comprehensive protections for LGBT people, and private educational institutions may seek a religiously-based federal waiver under Title IX that permits them to continue to receive public funding even while discriminating against LGBT people. According to a recent report by the Human Rights Campaign, the rate of schools nationwide seeking waivers increased dramatically from one school in 2013, to more than 43 schools in 2015. Six are in California.
AB 1887 would ban state-funded travel to any state with a law in effect that sanctions or requires discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Last year, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that allows discrimination against the LGBT community and others based on religious beliefs, prompting several governors and mayors, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, to ban state- or city-funded travel to Indiana. This bill would ban state-funded travel to Indiana and other states that enact similar discriminatory RFRA laws.
AB 1888 would require all institutions receiving CalGrant dollars to certify to the California Student Aid Commission that they do not discriminate on the basis of, among other things, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. These institutions also would be prohibited from seeking a Title IX waiver from the U.S. Department of Education as a condition of receiving state funds.
“These bills send a clear message that the state of California does not tolerate discrimination in any form,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “Now that the LGBT community has won marriage equality and made so many positive strides in other areas, we are seeing a disturbing trend of our opponents using exemptions based on religious freedom to justify discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and other areas. These bills end state subsidies of educational institutions that refuse to treat all students and employees equally, as well as state-funded travel to jurisdictions that discriminate.”
The bills will be will be heard in committee this spring.