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Controversial gay-rights bill OK'd
Measure would ban demeaning actions in public schools.
By Jim Sanders -- Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:01 am PDT Tuesday, August 22, 2006
California public schools could not demean gay, bisexual or transgender orientation under fiercely controversial legislation approved Monday by the Assembly.
The measure, Senate Bill 1437, has become a lightning rod in a bitter struggle between gay-rights advocates and critics who claim their moral values are under attack.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, hailed the bill as a way to make schools safer.
"We'll send a message here that California is above it, that each and every person in our schools is going to be treated with the love and respect they deserve," Núñez said.
But Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy, R-Monrovia, called the measure a dangerous form of "social experimentation."
"This is not about discrimination, it's about acceptance," he said. "You want us in society to accept homosexuality as normality -- and it's not."
SB 1437 would ban teachers, textbooks, instructional materials or school activities from reflecting "adversely" upon people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
Following Monday's Assembly vote, 46-31, the bill will return to the Senate for what is expected to be routine concurrence in amendments before reaching the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The measure initially was wider in scope, seeking changes in social science curriculum to recognize the contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.
Sen. Sheila Kuehl, a Santa Monica Democrat who crafted SB 1437, amended the bill after Schwarzenegger indicated that he would veto it.
"I think it's a small step forward, but it's a very important step," Kuehl said.
Margita Thompson, Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman, said the Republican governor has not said whether he will sign the narrowed SB 1437.
But Thompson said the governor continues to have concerns and "will not sign a bill that micromanages textbook selection."
SB 1437 applies to public school teachers, not those on privately funded campuses.
Violations of SB 1437 could be reported to the state Department of Education for possible reprisals.
Current California law provides similar prohibitions against teaching, activities or textbooks that discriminate on the basis of race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin or ancestry.
SB 1437 adds sexual orientation to the list of protected classes.
Under Kuehl's bill, public school teachers could not inform their students, for example, that homosexuality is immoral or wrong.
But SB 1437 does not specify what kinds of statements or activities would "reflect adversely" upon gays.
Campaign for Children and Families, a nonprofit advocacy group, claims that SB 1437 would ban textbooks that define marriage as between a man and a woman; or sex education that displays traditional examples of male and female sexual development; or homecoming games that feature only a male king and a female queen as campus representatives.
"If you can't say anything negative (about homosexuality) … that means you have to promote it," said Randy Thomasson, president of the group.
Kuehl, one of a handful of openly gay legislators, called such characterizations ridiculous.
"It's balderdash," she said.
Asked what the bill would ban, Kuehl said it might prevent a teacher from stating inaccurately that AIDS would not exist if not for gays, for example, or prohibit school field trips to any group that's "organized to bash gay people."
"It's really stopping the use of taxpayer money for hate speech and discrimination," said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, the bill's sponsor.
But critics said state law already protects students against discrimination of any kind.
SB 1437 "seems to be a bill in search of a problem that doesn't exist," said Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine.
About the writer:
The Bee's Jim Sanders can be reached at (916) 326-5538 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Same-sex marriage is surely a civil right
Updated 8/22/2006 4:57 PM ET
By Sheryl McCarthy
As the debate rages over whether gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry, I'm disappointed whenever I hear other African-Americans say, "No, they shouldn't."
We're more opposed to same-sex marriage than whites are, according to a June survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which found that 65% of African-Americans are against it compared with 53% of whites.
I understand the reasons.
African-Americans are overwhelmingly Christians, and many of us believe that the Bible condemns homosexuality. Beyond that, even suggesting that the struggle of gays and lesbians for the right to marry is similar to our own civil rights struggle is often perceived as an insult.
I've heard the most racially militant blacks argue that the gay struggle is different from our own because we have no choice about being black while gays can choose whom they want to sleep with. This reasoning persists despite growing scientific evidence that people's sexual orientation is innate and that they don't choose it any more than they choose their sex or race.
Some African-Americans also argue that gays and lesbians were never slaves or victims of a system designed to keep them in their place, and that while homosexuals have the option of keeping their sex lives private, few blacks can hide their race.
A comparable struggle
Even some civil rights leaders, such as Jesse Jackson, have tried to put distance between the black and gay struggles. And black ministers, among them the Rev. Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter, have led protests to fight efforts to legalize same-sex marriage.
The fight for gay rights is like our civil rights struggle, however, and it's hypocritical for groups that have had to fight long and hard to win their own constitutional rights to turn around and try to deny them to the next group. We're seeing this in the descendants of immigrant groups that were despised and vilified during their early days in this country, and that now want to deny recent immigrants the means to become lawful citizens.
This hypocrisy was apparent to me as I was growing up in a black Baptist church. I routinely heard ministers condemn gays from the pulpit, even though half the male choir members, the choir director, the flower arranger and plenty of other male church members were obviously gay. The church would have had difficulty functioning without them.
Because it's difficult enough to be black in this country, I know that black communities would prefer not to have to deal with the added stigma society attaches to homosexuals, and the obvious link to HIV and AIDS. And with stable heterosexual marriages rare enough in black communities, some African-Americans think that encouraging same-sex marriage would only complicate the situation.
Nonetheless, the main argument used against same-sex marriage is that the Bible says it's wrong. We point to the Scriptures, to the story of Adam and Eve (and the absence of Adam and Steve), to the retribution inflicted on the sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah, and to depictions of male-on-male sex in Leviticus and Romans as being so perverse that it warranted death.
I won't attempt to argue with the Scriptures, other than to say they reflect the mores and biases of the times they were written. And just as there are Scriptures ordering slaves to obey their masters, cautioning women to be silent in church and submissive at home, and applauding the persecution of the Jews because they killed Jesus, none of these positions is argued by enlightened people today.
I won't dismiss the beliefs of blacks who believe that homosexuality is immoral, but I'd caution them that morality has often been used as a cloak for old-fashioned bigotry, fear and discomfort with people and behaviors that are different.
But what about religion?
How can African-Americans reconcile religious beliefs with acceptance of same-sex marriage?
I asked the Rev. James Forbes, pastor of The Riverside Church in New York. Forbes is black, and his diverse congregation has gone on record as supporting same-sex marriages — and all other families that are based on the principles of love and justice. Forbes says acceptance might increase as African-Americans become more aware of scientific evidence that suggests sexual orientation is innate — and not a choice.
As for the Bible's apparent disapproval of homosexual behavior, Forbes says it's a matter of how one reads the Bible.
"What is clear," he says, "is that the Bible says the highest principle is love. Once it becomes clear that our sexual orientation is more or less a given, I think black people will begin to recognize that including all in the family of God is a more righteous principle than the abhorrence of gay love."
I see marriage as a civil right, and no group's religious beliefs should be allowed to deny the rights of others. And because blacks have suffered from bigotry and injustice that were cloaked by religion and morality, we should avoid doing the same thing to others.
Sheryl McCarthy is a freelance writer and columnist for Newsday on Long Island, N.Y.She's also a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors.
Posted 8/21/2006 10:29 PM ET
Updated 8/22/2006 4:57 PM ET
HIV感染、最多の248人＝40代以上が大幅増－検査件数伸び・厚労省 (時事 2006/08/22)