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Equality California: Two Bills Threatening Student Safety Die in Committee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 3, 2008
2:53 PM

CONTACT: Equality California
Ali Bay, Communications Manager
(916) 284-9187
ali@eqca.org

 
Two Bills Threatening Student Safety Die in Committee
EQCA Opposes Measures Designed to Strip Away Student Civil Rights Protections
 

SACRAMENTO - April 3 - Two bills opposed by Equality California failed in the Assembly Education Committee yesterday, safeguarding existing protections for California students. The measures would have stripped away important civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.

Members of the Assembly Education Committee rejected both Assembly Bill 2085 and Assembly Bill 2086 with a 6-3 vote along party lines. Every Republican assemblymember on the committee voted to repeal student protections. The six votes against the bills came from Democrats.

AB 2085 would have deleted existing protections against discrimination in public school instruction based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and perceived gender, disability, nationality, race or ethnicity, and religion. The bill would have voided student safeguards that were secured with EQCA-sponsored legislation. AB 2086 would have discouraged schools from offering diversity programs, such as Coming Out Week and Day of Silence, that discuss sexual orientation and gender identity issues. Both measures were authored by Assemblymember Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar.

“We are pleased California’s fair-minded legislators opposed these bills today, recognizing the progress we have made to ensure that all people, especially our youth, are treated fairly, equally, and with respect,” said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. “Although we have secured important protections under law for all California youth, anti-gay activists and policy makers continue to attack the civil rights of our young people. We must continue to be vigilant in stopping these attacks in their tracks in order to safeguard the youth protections we have worked long and hard to secure.”

Last week, EQCA issued an action alert to its members and supporters asking them to urge members of the Assembly Education Committee to oppose AB 2085 and AB 2086. Nearly 3,000 letters were sent to the committee.

Testifying in opposition of the bills, Lance Chih, a 20-year-old college student from Sacramento, recalled discrimination he faced in high school because he identifies as gay.

“I remember how afraid I was to go to my school,” Chih said. “I remember sitting in class and being harassed for being gay – and the teacher doing nothing to intervene. The laws that are in place are designed to help make, and keep, school a safe environment. There were a few teachers on my campus that were following the law and were there to protect me. The next student may not be as lucky, especially if we make it OK to tolerate blatant bullying and discrimination.”

In an attempt to erase some of the student civil rights laws that protect LGBT youth in California, anti-gay organizations have filed a lawsuit in state court. The suit attacks the Student Civil Rights Act (SB 777), which reinforced existing state laws that prohibit discrimination in publicly-funded schools and activities based on religion, race or ethnicity, disability, gender and sexual orientation. Opponents of SB 777, authored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, are also collecting signatures for a voter initiative to repeal certain student civil rights protections.

Organizations that joined EQCA to oppose AB 2085 included the American Civil Liberties Union, Anti-Defamation League, Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality, California State Conference of the NAACP, California Teachers Association, Los Angeles Unified School District, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and California NOW. Groups opposed to AB 2086 included the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District IX, California Family Health Council, California Federation of Teachers and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California.

View a complete list of opposing organizations and more information about AB 2085 and AB 2086.

Equality California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to achieve equality and civil rights of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians. Please visit our website at eqca.org.

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