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San Jose Mercury News
Posted on Thu, Sep. 07, 2006
Bill to protect gay students is vetoed
By Edwin Garcia
MediaNews Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday vetoed legislation that would have barred discrimination against gays in public schools.
The measure, SB 1437 by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles, would have prohibited the instruction, use of textbooks or school-sponsored activities that adversely reflect on people based on their sexual orientation -- adding to an existing law that bars discrimination in schools based on race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin or ancestry.
Schwarzenegger said the measure wouldn't have enhanced protections offered under current law against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
``I think that it is covered by the Education Code. It says it all, that we fight prejudice,'' Schwarzenegger told reporters Wednesday, adding that he's ``totally committed 100 percent to fight prejudice in our schools.''
He added: ``We have laws to protect people and I think we don't need additional laws.''
Schwarzenegger's veto was not totally unexpected for a Republican governor running for re-election and trying to strengthen his conservative voting base.
But the bill's author called the veto ``inexplicable'' and said she ``deeply amended'' the measure in response to Schwarzenegger's initial opposition. In its original form, the measure would have required schools to teach students about the contributions of prominent gays, which drew fire from conservative organizations.
``Since we amended the bill simply to bar discrimination in official teaching materials, I an extremely disappointed that the governor chose to respond to a small, shrill group of right-wing extremists rather than a fair-minded majority of Californians who support this reasonable measure,'' Kuehl, who was traveling out of the country Wednesday, said in a statement.
``This piece of legislation would have only modestly expanded existing statutes to bring us one step closer to the goal of safe schools for all children,'' Kuehl said, adding that gay, bisexual and transgender students need ``equal protection'' because they face hostilities on campuses.
In his veto message, Schwarzenegger cited provisions of the Education Code and said current law protects students from hate crimes, regardless of sexual orientation. He said he was ``not aware of any published case brought under these code sections in which individuals within the protected classes have successfully protected their rights under these statutes.''
The president of the Pacific Justice Institute, a non-profit group that defends civil liberties and opposes bills that ``push pro-homosexual curricula,'' said Schwarzenegger made the right decision.
``Without question,'' said Brad Dacus, ``the governor did the right thing at the right time.'' Dacus said public school parents across California will be proud of Schwarzenegger's stance.
But leaders of Equality California, a non-profit advocacy group for gay, bisexual and transgender residents, said Schwarzenegger's reasoning makes no sense.
``The governor unfortunately seems to be paying attention to the far right wing that has really been vocal and loud in their opposition to this bill, and they have really delivered a lot of misinformation and created a very vocal opposition among their constituents,'' said Seth Kilbourn, the organization's political director.
Kilbourn said his group is closely watching several other measures on the governor's desk that intend to strengthen existing anti-discriminatory laws to protect gays, bisexuals and transgender people.
Mercury News Staff Writer Kate Folmar contributed to this report. Contact Edwin Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org or (916) 441-4651.
Governor vetoes gay teaching measure
He says current laws guard against discrimination
- Greg Lucas, San Francisco Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
Thursday, September 7, 2006
(09-07) 04:00 PDT Sacramento -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have prohibited teaching or textbooks that negatively portray people based on sexual orientation, saying existing law already contains protections against discrimination.
The Republican governor's veto was not unexpected. He said he would reject the bill in its initial form when it required textbooks to include the political and cultural contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
"This bill attempts to offer vague protection when current law already provides clear protection against discrimination in our schools based on sexual orientation," Schwarzenegger said in his veto message.
The governor's action heartened groups who oppose the expansion of gay rights and angered those who advocate that prohibitions on discrimination based on sexual orientation should be as strong as those based on race, gender or religion.
"The only opposition to the bill were the extremist, anti-gay organizations. The only rationale for his veto is to appease right-wing voters," said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, the measure's sponsor. "Even if he thinks this new protection wouldn't add much, why leave one group off an anti-discrimination list that covers every other group?"
The measure by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, was a lightning rod for advocates and opponents of gay rights. It spawned protests and often rancorous debates when it moved through the Legislature.
"Thousands of Californians called, e-mailed and wrote letters to the governor urging him to veto this bill," said Meredith Turney, legislative liaison for Capitol Resource Institute, an opponent of the bill. "The governor heard their protests and vetoed a bill that seriously infringed on students' religious freedom."
When sent to Schwarzenegger, SB1437 prohibited teaching and textbooks that "reflect adversely" on persons based on sexual orientation. Since 1965, teachers and textbooks have been prohibited from negative portrayals of persons based on various characteristics such as ethnicity, gender or nationality.
Schwarzenegger said existing law already bans discrimination of pupils based on sex, ethnic group, national origin, religion, disability and sexual orientation.
Coincidentally, it was a bill by Kuehl -- the first lesbian elected to the Legislature -- which added sexual orientation to that list in 1999.
Kuehl said the governor was wrong in claiming existing law prevents negative images of gays in teaching or textbooks.
"The governor is erroneous in his veto message in claiming students are protected from this kind of discrimination," Kuehl said. "The sections of the law he cites relate to school activities and programs. A separate section covers textbooks and instructional materials. And those protections don't exist there."
Originally, Kuehl's bill prohibited schools from using instructional materials that did not include the cultural, political and economic contributions of gays.
Without first telling Kuehl, Schwarzenegger publicly announced in May he would veto her bill. In response, Kuehl scaled down the measure, removing the textbook mandate.
Opponents of Kuehl's bill weren't satisfied by Schwarzenegger's veto Wednesday. They have targeted two other "sexual indoctrination" measures that require vetoes.
One would require the state superintendent of public instruction to create a state policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment based on "actual or perceived gender identity" and sexual orientation.
The measure -- AB606 by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys -- has been linked to Kuehl's bill by opponents. The third measure -- AB1056 by Assemblywoman Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park (Los Angeles County) -- establishes a "Tolerance Education Pilot Program" in 10 schools. Critics contend the schools would become "sexual indoctrination centers" because tolerance, as defined by the bill, would have to be extended to groups, like gays, who have historically been marginalized.
"Moms and Dads and grandparents want a consistent governor, not a flip-flopping governor," said Randy Thomasson, president of the Campaign for Children and Families. "If the governor signs any of these indoctrination bills, he will be abandoned by moral conservatives."
Schwarzenegger's veto could, however, lead to his signature on less-controversial measures relating to gays.
Supportive of domestic partnerships, the governor might be more likely to sign a measure allowing domestic partners who register with the state to file their personal income tax returns jointly.
Although registered domestic partnerships enjoy nearly all other rights of married couples, they can only file separate state tax returns. A spokeswoman said Schwarzenegger had no position on the bill, SB1827 by state Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco.
"It would be shocking for him to veto a tax-relief bill for domestic partners when he says same-sex couples should be treated equally," Kors said.
E-mail Greg Lucas at email@example.com.
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