Equality on California College Campuses

Author: Ella Michaels, Legislative Analyst
Updated: August 8, 2016
        “No person shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, [or] sexual orientation…”
         These are the opening lines of California Education Code Section 66270, an obscure but critically important provision preventing prejudice in higher education. The policy prohibits discriminatory practices in all colleges and universities in California that benefit from government funding or enroll students on state financial aid. However, schools run by religious institutions do not have to follow anti-discrimination policies if it is not in line with their beliefs. That may be about to change.
          California SB 1146, also known as the Equity in Higher Education Act, would eliminate that religious exemption and require faith-based universities to honor Section 66270 even if it clashes with their beliefs. Those who oppose the measure argue that it violates religious freedoms protected by the First Amendment. Proponents of the legislation reason that religion is no excuse for intolerance and further that SB 1146’s opponents are using the constitution as a flimsy cover for prejudice against the LGBT community. Though the bill was just introduced this year, much of the dialogue surrounding it echoes years of debate over how to reconcile First Amendment freedoms and LGBT rights. Both the rhetoric and the players spouting it are very familiar; conservative, faith-based organizations are fighting to uphold the religious exemption while LGBT groups are fighting to abolish it. It seems that odds are in favor of the latter. The measure, which already passed in the State Senate, is scheduled for a hearing in Assembly Appropriations on August 11.

Click here for the full details of this bill
( SB - 1146: An act to add Sections 66290.1 and 66290.2 to the Education Code, and to add Section 11135.5 to the Government Code, relating to discrimination.)