State Rep. Don Wagner (R-68) and current candidate for Mayor sent out the note below warning residents about the perceived evil at SB1146, a bill by State Senator Richard Lara that protects the rights of LGBTQ students, faculty and staff at private colleges and universities, particular those that are faith-based.
Wagner tries to frame the bill as one that protects religious liberty while assuring these schools get taxpayer-funded state aid to discriminate against gays, lesbians, bi-sexual and transgendered individuals. Here’s his email content below:
SB 1146 Is An Attack on Religious Liberty and Higher Education
I recently toured Concordia University here in Irvine and engaged in a robust discussion on the intersection of faith and higher education. Concordia University proudly serves over 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students and has produced highly trained professionals in the fields of psychology, theater, education, business, and politics. They do not force religion on their students but encourage them to pursue the highest form of ethics in work and in life. If only Sacramento could do the same.
When the legislature reconvenes in August, we will have an opportunity to discuss a bill that attacks religious liberty and higher education. Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced SB 1146 which threatens the religious liberty of California universities and colleges by forcing them to abandon their faith convictions in order to qualify for state assistance. The unfortunate aspect of this bill is that the real victims here are students who chose to attend these institutions. These students will no longer be able to pursue their dreams of higher education and finish their degrees without being saddled with debt. This bill is wrong now and I plan to strongly oppose this piece of legislation.
Faith based private colleges and universities have a right to hold and practice their core beliefs. I proudly proud stand by that principle and prepare to fight to protect those rights.
As far as faith-based colleges and universities having a right to hold and practice core beliefs, I have no argument. If they want my tax dollars to fund discrimination, sorry they can’t have it. Find another source of funding for bigotry and hatred which isn’t supposed to be a core Christian belief.
As Mr. Wagner is a candidate for Mayor in one of the most diverse cities in the county if not the country, his notion of religious liberty extends only to Judeo-Christian faiths. His voting record in the state assembly is anything but Christian and his email campaign against this legislation is proof Wagner is more about dividing Irvine instead of uniting it. One must wonder if Wagner’s fans at FivePoint, who are almost certain to fund IEs in his favor, back this effort.
For the other side of the story, here’s Senator Lara’s position on the bill and what it does with actual facts of discrimination:
Senate Bill 1146 would require universities who are granted a Title IX exemption to disclose that information to the California Student Aid Commission and disseminate the information to students and staff. The bill would also allow an individual that has encountered discrimination at a school claiming a Title IX exemption to pursue a remedy through a civil action. SB1146 cleared the Senate Education Committee this morning.
“All students deserve to feel safe in institutions of higher education, regardless of whether they are public or private,” said Senator Lara. “California has established strong protections for the LGBTQ community and private universities should not be able to use faith as an excuse to discriminate and avoid complying with state laws. No university should have a license to discriminate.”
At the federal level, Title IX prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and gender nonconformity in education programs and activities that receive any federal funding. However, there is a little known loophole that private universities use to avoid complying with Title IX. If a university believes compliance with Title IX would conflict with their values they may submit an exemption request to the U.S. Department of Education. The Department has very little discretion and most requests are granted.
Over the last three years there has been a significant uptick in the number of universities who apply and receive an exemption to Title IX. Only one school was granted an exemption in 2013. Today there are at least 43 schools that have received an exemption nationally. There are at least six schools in California that currently have an exemption. Currently, the universities that receive Title IX exemptions do not have to disclose their status to students or staff. Many students are completely unaware of the exemption and what the potential consequences would be in the event their sexual orientation or gender identity did not align with the universities values. Students and staff across the country have reported finding out about the exemption, only after being expelled from school or fired from their job.
Recently at a university in southern California, a student took a leave of absence and during his time away came out as gay on social media. When it was time to return to school, the university did not want to readmit him. Transgender students have also reported being denied access to gender appropriate housing and some have been expelled as a result of their revealing their gender identity. Currently these students and staff have no recourse.
The bill is supported by the Los Angeles LGBT Center, Equality California and the Transgender Law Center.
“The Los Angeles LGBT Center is proud to support SB 1146, to prevent discrimination in higher education. Students and staff have a right to know when their school requests a license to discriminate against the LGBT community. This bill will protect LGBT people who work and study at private universities and will allow all Californians be more informed,” said Dave Garcia, Director of Policy and Community Building at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
“Prospective students have a right to know if a university they are considering attending discriminates against LGBT people,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “This bill would let any school seeking to skirt federal anti-discrimination protections know that its policies would be public, and that anyone discriminated against would have legal recourse.”