A bill approved in the

California State Assembly
will grant legal protection to cross-dressers under the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, preventing discrimination on the basis of a person’s “perceived” gender.

California Assemblyman Fred Keeley is seeking legal protection for cross-dressers through his legislation that redefines “gender.”

Sponsored by

Assemblyman Fred Keeley, D-Santa Cruz,
Assembly Bill 2142 would literally change the legal definition of “gender” to mean a person’s actual sex or another person’s perception of the person’s sex. The definition also includes the “discriminator’s” perception of the victim’s “identity, appearance or behavior,” whether or not those factors are different from those “traditionally associated with the [person’s] sex at birth.”

In a position paper from the

Committee on Moral Concerns,
executive director Art Croney writes, “Existing law already covers sexual orientation. This bill would give cross-dressers, transsexuals, opposite sex impersonators, and comedians special protection. Everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law. However, persons with gender identity difficulties should not be entitled to more than equal protection.”

Art Croney, executive director and lobbyist for the Committee on Moral Concerns, opposes Keeley’s bill, saying if affords “special protection” to people already recognized by current law.

But Keeley maintains his bill is merely filling a gap in existing law.

“[Transgender people are] certainly not in this bill getting anything other than equal protection,” he said. “My goal … is to be certain that people are not discriminated against in employment and housing based on another person’s perception of their gender.”

Speaker pro-tempore of the California Assembly, Keeley explained his reasons for introducing the controversial measure.

“I’m carrying 2142 because I believe that when decisions are made about employment and housing, they should be decisions that are not based on discrimination; they are not based on immutable characteristics that a person has, which is to say whether they are a man or woman, African-American or Asian American, young or old. We’ve made a decision in this country that we will not discriminate based on these immutable characteristics,” he told WorldNetDaily.

The bill was drafted as a result of two Supreme Court cases in which plaintiffs sued for discrimination based on perceived sexuality. According to Keeley, a female executive at Price Waterhouse was passed over for a promotion because she did not look or act feminine enough. Another case involved a male working on an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. He was harassed for his relatively small stature.

Both cases exemplify the need for

AB 2142,
said Keeley. Neither took place in California.

In an

analysis of the bill
by the

Committee on Labor and Employment,
“gender-based discrimination is rooted in discomfort or disapproval of the way another person does or does not exhibit the traits stereotypically associated with his or her sex. The traits may include a person’s personality, clothing, hairstyle, speech, mannerisms, or demeanor; they may also include secondary sex characteristics such as vocal pitch, facial hair, or the size or shape of a person’s body. When a person is harassed, denied equal opportunity, or otherwise treated differently because of any of these personal traits, that is gender discrimination.”

“It’s a straight-up civil rights issue,” said Keeley, who added he “found irony” in an argument made against his bill by the Committee on Moral Concerns.

“Using [Croney’s] argument, he believes that folks who are having, as he calls it, ‘gender identity difficulties’ need help.” If such people need help, they should not have their home and job taken away or restricted, he added.

Employees protected under the bill include school teachers. If AB 2142 becomes law, public schools will be required to allow cross-dressing teachers in classrooms.

However, Keeley attempted to downplay that potential scenario, saying, “First, anyone who is familiar with cross-dressing understands that this is oftentimes a very private matter. Number two, there is nothing in this bill which will amend or eliminate the current law which allows employers to apply a dress code for a bona fide business purpose.”

Courts would have to determine whether preventing a teacher from cross-dressing in the classroom serves a “bona fide business purpose.”

But the scenario may not be far-fetched. In the summer of 1999, a Sacramento teacher discussed with his high school students his intention to cross-dress on campus. The teacher, who has since changed his name to Dana Rivers, was preparing for a sex-change operation and had begun hormone injections.

Faced with a threatened lawsuit, the

Center Unified School
immediately dismissed the teacher, who then threatened to file a lawsuit of his own against the district for wrongful termination. The teacher eventually took a $150,000 settlement and agreed never to teach in the district again.

While Keeley’s bill may not have protected Rivers, since his termination was based on conversation with students, the bill moves California one step closer to full legal protection of what many term “sexual deviance.”

For instance, Californians seeking recognition as members of the opposite sex, despite their anatomy, are entitled to obtain such recognition from the

Department of Motor Vehicles
if they have begun hormone injections as a precursor to a sex-change operation.

Another argument against AB 2142 is articulated by Randy Thomasson, executive director of the

Campaign for California Families.

Randy Thomasson, executive director of the Campaign for California Families, fears ramifications of AB 2142 on organizations such as the Boy Scouts and religious business owners.

“It doesn’t get more anti-family than AB 2142,” wrote Thomasson in his

weekly news alert.
“Not only would businesses be fined $50,000 and property owners $150,000 for non-compliance [under the Fair Employment and Housing Act], it would mean your kids could have to share school bathrooms with someone dressing as the opposite sex. AB 2142 would victimize the Boy Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Clubs, religious radio stations and bookstores, and all businesses and property owners no matter a person’s moral convictions.”

Asked if his bill would, indeed, allow men to enter women’s bathrooms and vice versa, Keeley said that issue “isn’t going to be aggravated or minimized by this bill. If there are men using women’s bathrooms and women using men’s bathrooms, this bill isn’t going to change that.”

The Assembly’s second-in-command, who said Thomasson’s analysis of the bill stems from “a level of immaturity,” said nothing in current law exists to prevent such an occurrence.

Laws against discrimination based on “perceived” gender and sexual orientation already exist in the state’s penal and education codes, making this latest extension of the protection less than surprising for some.

“We actually are not surprised with this legislation,” said Brad Dacus, president of

Pacific Justice Institute.
“As outrageous as it may seem to the average Californian, this legislature has methodically been moving in this direction for quite some time. Without any perceived necessity on their parts for some sort of social boundaries, there’s no reason to expect it to stop at this level.”

Attorney Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, is not surprised by the controversial bill, saying it is an expected move by a legislature working to advance acceptance of “alternative” lifestyles.

Dacus referred to recent actions by the state’s legislature that have granted widespread rights and privileges to homosexuals and other adherents to “alternative” lifestyles. Examples include a domestic partnership registry and state employee health benefits to registered couples.

“Our major concern as a parents’ rights, religious freedom organization is the extent to which these new ‘civil rights’ will continue to trounce on the rights of individuals, businesses, and churches whose religious values and moral convictions don’t agree with it,” he continued.

Religiously based business people are being given more and more obstacles to running their businesses as their consciences dictate, he added.

AB 2142 was approved in the Assembly by a party-line 41-30 vote, and now awaits a hearing in the Senate.

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