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Schwarzenegger signs, vetoes gay rights bills
California governor Aronold Schwarzenegger continued sending mixed messages to LGBT Californians when he signed into law three gay-positive bills but vetoed another.
On Thursday the Republican governor signed into law a bill that would make it more difficult for defendants to use the "gay panic" defense. The brutal 2002 murder of transgender teen Gwen Arajuo spurred the new legislation, called the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act.
"The enactment of this bill will help keep bias and hatred out of our courtrooms," said the bill's author, Democratic assemblywoman Sally Lieber, in a statement. "All Californians—regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or ethnicity—should be treated fairly by our criminal justice system."
Schwarzenegger also signed a bill that encourages equal treatment of gays and transgender people in political campaigns. The measure, called the Fair Employment and Housing Act, amends the voluntary pledge signed by candidates and campaign committees to fairly treat LGBT people.
The third pro-gay bill Schwarzenegger signed was the Civil Rights Housing Act of 2006, which will change housing laws to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Safe Place to Learn Act was vetoed by the governor. The bill would have strengthened existing state law by clearly prohibiting the bullying of LGBT students in California schools.
"Some California schools are choosing to ignore the current law prohibiting discrimination and harassment of LGBT students, and to veto a bill that would help enforce that law is shameful," said Geoff Kors, executive director of the gay advocacy group Equality California, in a statement. (The Advocate)
Schwarzenegger Signs 'Gay Panic' & LGBT Housing Bills, Vetoes School Bias Bill
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
September 29, 2006 - 3:00 am ET
(Sacramento, California) California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation Thursday night making it more difficult for defendants to us the so-called 'gay panic' defense.
The bill grew out of the brutal slaying of transgender teen Gwen Araujo in 2002. At the trial of three men accused of punching, gashing, choking, tying up and strangling the 17 year old attorney's claimed their clients had panicked when it was discovered by two of the men with whom Araujo had sex that she was born biologically male. The three were convicted but it took two trials.
The Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act directs the Office of Emergency Services to create training materials for district attorneys on best practices to address the use of bias-motivated defense strategies in criminal trials. The bill also requires the Judicial Council to adopt a jury instruction that tells jurors not to consider bias against people because of sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristics in rendering a verdict.
"The enactment of this bill will help keep bias and hatred out of our courtrooms," said Assemblymember Sally Lieber (D-San Jose) who authored the bill. "All Californians - regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion or ethnicity - should be treated fairly by our criminal justice system."
The law was praised by Araujo's family.
"Since my daughter was killed, my family and I have spent literally thousands of hours working hard to make sure that California is a state where everyone is respected and treated fairly," said Sylvia Guerrero. "The Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act will really help us in our work."
Schwarzenegger also signed the Civil Rights Housing Act of 2006 which will standardize various California housing laws to specifically state that discrimination is prohibited based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, sex - including gender identity, marital status, sexual orientation, familial status and source of income.
"This bill significantly improves housing protections in California, while also affirming our state's role as the national leader in civil rights protections," said Assemblymember John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) the bill's author.
Additionally the governor put his pen to a bill encouraging fairness in political campaigns. The measure amends the voluntary pledge signed by candidates and campaign committees to include the groups and characteristics covered in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), including sexual orientation and gender identity.
But in a move that infuriated LGBT advocates Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill aimed at curbing bullying in California schools.
The Safe Place to Learn Act would have strengthened existing state law prohibiting anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) discrimination and harassment in public schools.
"Some California schools are choosing to ignore the current law prohibiting discrimination and harassment of LGBT students and to veto a bill that would help enforce that law is shameful," said Geoff Kors, Equality California executive director.
"The governor is ignoring the needs of students who are teased and bullied because they are or are perceived to be LGBT. The governor claims to have spent most of his life fighting discrimination and teaching children about tolerance, yet he has vetoed every bill he has seen that would do just that."
Schwarzenegger in a statement said existing law was sufficient, something the bill's author, Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) disputes.
"The facts are that LGBT students are more likely than their peers to use drugs or to be victimized by violence, more than twice as likely to seriously consider suicide, and over three times more likely to carry a weapon to school or stay home because they feel unsafe," said Levine.
A survey conducted by the California Safe Schools Coalition found that students who are harassed based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity are more than three times as likely to report missing at least one day of school in the last 30 days due to feeling unsafe; are twice as likely to report depression and seriously consider suicide; and are more likely to have low grades, be victims of violence or use illegal substances.
Earlier this month Schwarzenegger vetoed a school bill that would have prohibited any negative portrayal of gays in textbooks and other instructional material. (story) The bill was an amended version of an earlier one that would have mandated the teaching of LGBT history in state schools that Schwarzenegger warned he would veto.
Last year Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation to allow same-sex marriage in California. (story)