Prospective foster parents in California will be required to undergo “sensitivity” training toward homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals if a bill that passed the state Assembly yesterday becomes law.

The legislation, approved 46-28 in a party-line vote, also would require foster parent agencies to support homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals as foster parents. It now goes to the state Senate.

California Democratic Assemblywoman Judy Chu

The bill’s sponsor, Democrat Judy Chu of Monterey Park, said AB 458 makes it “clear that it is unacceptable to insult, to assault, to do some name calling against a foster child,” the Associated Press reported. It also requires that prospective foster parents “listen to the fact that there’s a law pertaining to discrimination against children,” Chu said.

Ten Republican lawmakers spoke out strongly against the bill from the floor, calling it a trampling of religious freedom and a government invasion of the home.

Democratic supporters called the bill “sensible, compassionate and responsible.” Just one Democrat did not cast a yes vote, Barbara Matthews of Stockton, who abstained.

Assemblyman Paul Koretz, a Democrat from West Hollywood, said, according to the AP, “We want to make sure gay teens don’t stay with foster parents who aren’t equipped to deal with these issues in a healthy and caring way.”

Opponents argued county foster care staff would be pressured to give special treatment to homosexual, bisexual and transsexual behavior. They also insisted the workers would be forced to discriminate against foster parents who, on moral grounds, cannot support any kind of sexual behavior by children in their homes.

“This radical bill will hurt children who are already hurting and result in fewer foster homes,” said Randy Thomasson, executive director of Campaign for California Families, a nonprofit family issues group.

Republican Assemblyman Rick Keene of Chico noted two-thirds of families in the state who provide foster care have a religious background. Many of those people would be faced with a difficult dilemma at a time when the state is having trouble finding foster care families, he said.

“We have a deficit position with foster families in the state of California,” said Republican Dennis Mountjoy of Monrovia. “The bill doesn’t call for anyone to ‘promote’ homosexuality, but I have to ‘sanction’ it as a foster parent, and foster parents are going to be unwilling to do that. They’re not going to step up to the plate and say ‘I’m willing to be a foster parent.'”

A Democrat co-author of the bill, Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento, insisted AB 458 would “increase the pool” of homosexual, bisexual and transsexual foster parents.

“There are a lot of prospective foster parents from marginalized communities who are not encouraged necessarily to enter into the system, and who might be incentivized to enter the system and become a foster parent if the law were clear in California that discrimination was prohibited,” he said from the floor.

Republican Assemblyman Jay La Suer of La Mesa, the former undersheriff of San Diego County, argued the bill is unnecessary because state law already prohibits violence and inhumane treatment against foster children.

GOP Assemblyman Jay La Suer

“This particular bill is a bill that doesn’t do anything except further an agenda,” he said. “The author should already know that the very things this bill is aimed at are currently against the law in California. So what are we really trying to do? Are we trying to force persons out of becoming or applying for foster parents because the teachings that are mandatory for them are against their religious beliefs? Very possibly!”

Thomasson asserted passage of the bill is giving Californians more reason to support a campaign to recall Gov. Gray Davis.

“The recall vehicle may be the only thing now to hold the governor accountable,” he said. “If enough people sign the recall petition and it qualifies for the ballot, Davis will have no choice but to veto the intolerant homosexual and transsexual agenda bills that the liberal Assembly is passing.”

A similar bill passed the California Legislature last year but was vetoed by Davis a month before election day.

Last month, the Assembly approved a bill that would fine business owners and Boy Scout councils $150,000 if they refused to hire a cross-dresser or transsexual based on “gender identity.”

In early June, the Assembly is expected to vote on AB 205, which would award all the rights of marriage under California law to homosexual “partners.”

Lawmakers also will consider AB 17, which would fire state contractors who won’t pay for homosexual-marriage benefits in their company or nonprofit organization.

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Bill would force hiring of cross-dressers

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