SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)–Christian bookstores and other businesses in California could be required to hire “transsexuals” and “cross-dressers” — for example, men wearing dresses — if legislation that passed the California State Assembly April 21 becomes law.
The bill, which would outlaw employment and housing discrimination against “transsexuals” and “cross-dressers,” passed the California Assembly 42-34. It now moves on to the state Senate, where it must pass in order to make it to the desk of California Gov. Gray Davis, who has yet to take a public position on the bill.
The new legislation would allow an employer to enforce “reasonable” dress codes, as long as those rules allow the employee “to appear or dress consistently with” his or her “gender identity.” California law already prohibits discrimination based on “sexual orientation.” The new bill would protect those who are undergoing sex-change operations — known as “transsexuals” — as well as men who wear women’s clothes, and vice versa.
The bill would exempt businesses with fewer than five employees. Employers and landlords who discriminate could face fines up to $150,000.
Democrats provided all of the “yes” votes, while most of the “no” votes came from Republicans.
“This is a very intolerant and dangerous bill,” said Randy Thomasson, founder and executive director of the Campaign for California Families. “… It’s outrageous that this bill was even introduced. But it’s understandable when you realize that the emerging faith of the Democratic Party is entirely in favor of the homosexual and transsexual agenda.”
Similar legislation has passed twice before in the assembly, but was stalled in the Senate when Davis became “nervous about this bill arriving on his desk,” Thomasson told Baptist Press.
“The bill actually claims that what is unnatural is natural,” he said. “Traditionally, civil rights are based on immutable characteristics — things you can’t change, like skin color. Now to place obviously changeable things [alongside race] … makes a mockery of everything that Martin Luther King marched for.”
The bill can be defeated, Thomasson said, if “people of faith” get involved by pressuring their state senator and the governor. Thomasson’s organization is out front in the “Recall Gray Davis” campaign, a grassroots effort that is attempting to gain approximately 1 million signatures by Aug. 29 to remove the California governor. If they reach their goal, a special election would be held and voters would vote up or down on Davis. They had fewer than 100,000 signatures in late April, although the backing of U.S. Representative Darrell Issa gave supporters hope.
“People need to get involved,” Thomasson said of defeating the legislation.
Assemblyman Mark Leno of San Francisco is the bill’s sponsor.
The San Francisco Chronicle quoted Leno as saying, “I cannot imagine anything more fundamental to liberty and freedom than being allowed to peacefully go about one’s day, to get up in the morning, get dressed, go to work and come home to one’s family without harassment, without discrimination and without intimidation.”
The bill is about fairness, assemblyman Darrell Steinberg argued.
“It’s about judging people by the content of their character, not by external or immutable characteristics,” he said, according to The Sacramento Bee.
But other assembly members said the bill would infringe on citizens’ religious liberties.
“If I have a Christian bookstore, how could I possibly follow this law?” assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy asked during debate, according to WorldNetDaily.com. “How could I possibly have an employee that’s here today in a dress, tomorrow may come in a suit, and then stay in a dress? How can I possibly employ this employee and still have the Christian bookstore and live by my faith?”
Some agreed with Mountjoy.
“I believe that religious liberty is the most important liberty,” assemblyman Ray Haynes said, according to the Chronicle, “because you are messing with people’s perceptions of their souls and the afterlife.”
Another assembly member called the bill “kooky.”
“We do some real kooky things out here. Really weird stuff,” assemblyman Jay LaSuer said in the Chronicle story. “As a kid, I even heard about California, how kooky we were. But this, my friends, is making it even worse for business. Let’s not forget what message this sends to the rest of the nation but also our kids.”
The bill is AB 196.