California’s Faith-Based Colleges Protest Pro-LGBTQ Bill, Says It Violates ‘Religious Freedom’

Faith-based colleges in California are protesting a pro-LGBTQ bill that allows lawsuits from gay and transgender students who suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation. The colleges argued that allowing the pro-LGBTQ legislation will impinge on their religious freedom.

Private Universities Have 'License' To Discriminate

Sen. Ricardo Lara said the California Senate Bill 1146, or SB 1146, is for private universities that are "licensed" to discriminate against gays and transgenders. Public colleges are already subjected to anti-discrimination laws, Los Angeles Times reported.

Religious freedom laws allow businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples if they think it violates their religious beliefs. It also prohibits transgender people from using bathrooms, locker rooms and student housing that don't match their gender at birth.

Around 32 private universities are expected to be affected with SB 1146. The bill has been approved by the state Senate in May and is now pending for a final approval in the Assembly.

Lara, who is openly gay, said LGBTQ students have "absolutely no recourse" against discrimination in colleges, the news outlet added. Assemblyman Evan Low said some schools don't allow same-sex relationships, cross-dressing and cohabitation with a same-sex partner.

Universities Hoping For A Compromise

Kristen F. Soares, president of the Assn. of Independent Colleges and Universities, said her office is negotiating with Lara to achieve some sort of compromise. Soares said the bill doesn't just affect the issues of sexual orientation; it could also result in lawsuits alleging discrimination on religious grounds.

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Gregory Baylor argued that lawsuits can be filed against religious practices in universities like required prayer and required attendance at chapel every week. The bill can also affect required classes that tackle theological matters from the school's viewpoint, WND reported.

Baylor called SB 1146 as "a solution in search of a problem," and legislators are using the bill to punish faith-based universities for practicing "the wrong views," WND added. He said faith-based universities only want to uphold and preserve their religious beliefs in an equally religious environment.

In an op-ed for Christian Post, Dr. John Jackson, president of William Jessup University, said SB 1146 violates the First Amendment and freedom of religion. He added that the bill impinges universities' desire to integrate higher education with spirituality.

Lara, for his part, said SB 1146 doesn't intend to disrupt religious lessons in classrooms and requirements like attending chapel twice a week, Los Angeles Times further reported. He said he is open to applying some changes in the bill to address some of the concerns of the universities.

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