A controversial legislation, nicknamed the "sexual indoctrination bill" by some conservative groups, that would ban bias against homosexuals, transgenders, and bisexuals at public school passed the California Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning.
Senate Bill 777 (S.B. 777), which already has passed the state Senate, was passed by a 7-3 vote along party lines and, should it go into law, would prohibit textbooks, instructors, and classes from teaching anything that "reflects or promotes bias against" those perceived with gender issues.
Christian groups have been concerned about the bill since it would force the school systems to positively portray non-traditional lifestyles to children who attend California schools. They feel that their children should have a right to disagree, however.
"S.B. 777 is an astounding assault on traditional values in California, especially for religious students," explained Karen England, executive director of Capitol Resource Institute (CRI), in a statement. "These types of laws that favor someone simply because of their sexual orientation will inevitably result in reverse discrimination against religious students."
All 7 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee voted to move S.B. 777 along onto the Assembly floor while all 3 Republicans voted against it.
The bill's author, Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), argues that the bill will give homosexuals and other alternative students equal rights and protect them from being persecuted in school. She also explained that the bill has been revised so it is not prejudiced toward another group in the process.
Several pro-family groups feel that the bill will only improperly move harassment onto religious students at school, however. They argue that there are better ways to reduce the persecution towards homosexuals without involving the legislation system.
"Proponents of this bill claim that it is necessary to end bullying. In fact, S.B. 777 will not end bullying, it will instead confuse students at an already confusing time in their adolescence," stated Meredith Turney, legislative liaison for CRI who spoke in front of the committee. "We wholeheartedly believe that any bullying and taunting, regardless of the motivation, should be punished. The best way to deal with bullying in schools is to restore classroom discipline. Passing more laws that discriminate against religious students will not end bullying or discrimination."
S.B. 777 is much like a previous bill, S.B. 1437, that was passed by the California legislature during the last session but later vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger - a fate likely to await the new bill should it go through the Assembly.
Set out in the language of the new bill, the word "gender" would be redefined as "sex" but not in the traditional sense. "Sex" could either mean a person's assigned "sex" at birth or, instead, a person's gender identity and related appearance can constitute "sex." "Sex" currently is defined in California as the biological condition of being male or female but would be erased if S.B. 777 passes.
As part of the legislation, all school materials and activities would have to positively portray sexually alternative lifestyles. Instructors would also not need parental permission to teach these subjects to their children – a result that many pro-family groups object to.
"Parents get angry when politicians dream of sexually indoctrinating their children in the classroom," said Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families (CCF), a California-based pro-family organization, in a statement. "Kindergarteners and first-graders learning about transsexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality from their teachers? This is not what parents want or children need."
According to CRI, the Los Angeles Unified School District has already implemented the policies in this bill.
"CRI knows that the average citizen opposes the unbelievable policies this bill will enact statewide – many are simply shocked when they learn of its implications," added England. "Parents do not want their young daughters in the same restroom or locker room with a boy who 'perceives' himself as a girl."
Students up to the twelfth grade would be affected by the bill.