Since February, California lawmakers have been muddling over a bill that would potentially shield LGBT college students from discrimination by religious institutions. In response, a national front of anti-LGBT conservative leaders has issued a letter in opposition to the affront, claiming their religious liberty rights to discriminate as they so choose.
For years, religious universities have drawn on religious liberty to seek exemptions to Title IX, “…the federal law that protects against discrimination on the basis of sex in education,” reports Think Progress. Senate Bill 1146 is an unwelcome answer to conservative requests, but a conceivable one as the Department of Education extended Title IX protections to transgender students in May. In the same vein, a December ruling by a federal judge in California also ruled that Title IX may apply to gender expression and sexual orientation.
California legislators may not have the authority to change federal law, but under state provisions, religious universities can still be held accountable.
State Bill 1146 would require that if a California university claims its Title IX exemption, all students, faculty, and staff would need to be made aware. The same would go for prospective students. Universities that claim the exemption would also be mandated to supply information to the state’s Student Aid Commission regarding why they took exemptions, which would be made public as well. Finally, the state bill would hold religious universities to California state’s nondiscrimination laws, which state that publicly funded institutions must serve all people, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Despite the clear efforts of conservatives to stomp out State Bill 1146, if passed, the bill would significantly increase transparency for religious universities, and help to defund them by the state, as well as through minimal state loans and grants for students.