A California lawmaker’s push to reduce discrimination against gays and lesbians at religious colleges and universities is sparking new debate over the separation of church and state.
Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara says LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bysexual, Trangender) students at religious colleges and universities shouldn’t have to hide their sexual identity.
“We’ve seen time and time again gay youth who attend these universities be kicked out once they officially come out or they make their sexuality public,” Lara says.
So under his bill, any religious college or university in California that’s exempt from federal Title IX anti-discrimination laws would have to formally disclose that exemption.
It would also make schools that receive state funds – including financial aid such as Cal Grants – subject to California's anti-discrimination laws, meaning students who believe they’ve been discriminated against could sue.
It's that provision in particular which is drawing fire from critics who say Lara's bill would violate the First Amendment.
“We’re going to infringe on a religious sphere,“ argues Republican Asm. James Gallagher. “And you’re gonna put government in the position of deciding what’s religious and what’s not.”
The bill has passed the Senate once but still faces final votes in both chambers – and must first make it through a critical vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee Thursday.