Well, a surprising bit of partially good news. After a lot of negative publicity, the sponsor of California's SB1146 has blinked on its worst provisions--namely, blocking colleges from taking any students who receive state aid if the colleges "discriminate" on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. See my earlier posts here and here.
Senator Lara, who sounds like a leftist totalitarian if there ever were one, has said that he will back off on those provisions in his bill for the time being. But it sounds like he may try again next year. Meanwhile, the new version of the bill still tries to brand schools with a scarlet letter if they get a religious exemption to the transgender interpretation of Title IX, and it will do one more thing: It will require schools to report to the state (!!) when they exercise discipline on a student for moral code reasons.
One wonders how that is even consistent with FERPA, the federal privacy law about student information. I suppose they can and will suppress student names, but still. Will they report discipline by type? "This year, we suspended three students for heterosexual fornication, two students for homosexual fornication, ten students for drunkenness, and one faculty member for adultery." Or what? Couldn't even that possibly be used to violate the privacy of the people involved? Or is it only discipline related to homosexuality that is to be reported?
I don't know if Senator Lara has even thought through his reporting requirements. He says he's trying to gather data on how frequently schools discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Does that mean they also have to report to the state when they explain to a student who "identifies" as the opposite sex that he won't be able to come to their school at all until he stops demanding that everyone play along with his mental illness? I'm sure Lara would love to have that reported as well, but so far it isn't being mentioned.
I haven't the slightest doubt that these intrusive reporting requirements, if they can even be legally spelled out and enforced, will further weaken Christian schools' commitments to their moral standards. So I'm not terribly thrilled about the newest version of the law, and I don't think schools should say that they support it.
However, let's not be gloomy. A bullet has been dodged. A very serious bullet indeed. And it was dodged by perfectly ordinary political means--publicity, signature-gathering, and lobbying. Kudos are especially due to the presidents of Christian colleges, such as Barry Corey of Biola, who spoke up explicitly and loudly about the dangers of this law rather than fretting that somehow they aren't allowed to because of their college's tax-exempt status.
David French has a good discussion here that includes these significant paragraphs:
The lessons here are clear. Never surrender. Always seek to persuade. Prepare to protest. Exercise your constitutional rights and apply political pressure to the same extent that leftist activists do. When the California bill was first proposed, I spoke to social conservatives who simply presumed total defeat. Christians always lose in blue states, they said. The political battle was pointless, and only the courts could save us now.
Yet I’ve seen Christians prevail even on the most progressive campuses through a combination of persistent persuasion and vigorous activism. This same combination prevailed in California today. It’s not a total victory, but the difference between the bill as amended and as proposed is so vast that university leaders are breathing a sigh of relief.
Though I can't re-find the link right now, I was especially interested to notice that one story about the opposition to SB1146 stated that lawmakers were concerned about legal costs to the state from lawsuits filed on behalf of the colleges that lost state aid. If you ever wonder whether lawfare works, remember this incident and thank groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom for existing.