In the run-up to a historic recall vote, California Gov. Gray Davis must decide if he will sign a controversial bill authorizing fines of up to $150,000 for companies or nonprofit groups, such as the Boy Scouts, that refuse to hire or rent a home to a cross-dresser, transsexual or drag queen.
Davis faces the dilemma of vetoing the bill and alienating his base of support or signing it and motivating opponents to turn out in greater numbers for the Oct. 7 recall vote, observers say.
“If he’s unprincipled and wants to do what politically serves him, he will veto this bill,” Randy Thomasson, executive director of Campaign for California Families told WorldNetDaily.
Led by Democrats, the state Senate voted 23-11 Thursday along party lines to add “gender identity or expression” to the characteristics protected under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.
The bill, which provides an exemption for religious groups, specifically protects residents whose “perceived gender characteristics are different from those traditionally associated with the individual’s sex at birth.”
It would make California the fourth state to bar discrimination on that basis, after New Mexico, Rhode Island and Minnesota. The Assembly approved the bill in April by a vote of 41 to 34, the minimum needed to pass.
“Having a law that specifically states who’s protected makes it clear to employers that the majority of people in California want transgender people to be able to work in a nondiscriminatory environment,” said Chris Daley, co-director of the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco.
On the group’s website, Daley’s co-leader Dylan Vade is described as “a queer female to male trannyfag transgender activist nerd who co-founded the Transgender Law Center.”
“He believes that there are an infinite number of beautiful genders – a gender galaxy, a gender splendor,” the website says.
Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco
Arguing for its necessity, the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, cites a 1999 study by the San Francisco Department of Public Health indicating the city’s transgendered population had a 70 percent unemployment rate.
Opponents, including employer groups warning of frivolous lawsuits, say the bill’s definitions are too subjective. It defines “gender” as “identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not that identity, appearance, or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the victim’s sex at birth.”
Under the bill, just about any comment or action between workers could be grounds for a lawsuit, argue groups such as the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Manufacturers and Technology Association.
During Assembly floor debate in April, Assemblyman John Campbell of Irvine, said the bill’s definition of gender hinges on the individual’s determination, “thereby making that protected class something that can change, can come in and out, can go back and forth and is not identifiable through any physical attribute.”
“I’ve heard from so many people who are shocked, dismayed and angry that such a crazy bill could even be introduced,” said Thomasson. “Just think how angry they would be if it were signed into law by Gray Davis.”
However, Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California, says he expects Davis to come through for California’s homosexual voters, the Associated Press reported.
“If anything, the recall effort should make it clearer to the governor that he needs to continue to support equality as the vast majority of Californians do,” Kors said, according to the AP.
Supporters included the California Professional Firefighters and the California Teachers Association.
The bill was one of a package proposed this year by the five-member Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus. Earlier this year, the state Assembly passed a bill that would award virtually all the rights of marriage to homosexual “domestic partners.” The Senate is expected to take it up next month.
Another bill, requiring foster parents to undergo “sensitivity” training toward homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals, passed 22-11 on a party-line vote Thursday. The legislation also requires foster parent agencies to support homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals as foster parents. Because of amendments in the Senate, the bill will return to the Assembly floor for a concurrence vote before going to Davis.