The California Assembly will likely vote on a controversial bill designed to pressure religious colleges and universities to abandon faith-based sexual behavior policies by the end of the month. California Senate Bill 1146, would require religious universities and colleges to stop discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status, was one of 200 bills heard before the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.
In keeping with the rules of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, all bills that cost more than $150,000 are moved to the suspense file for further consideration. Lawmakers have until August 31 to pass their bills before the final resource or wait until next January.
SB 1146 would require any entity that receives state funding or enrolls students who receive state financial assistance, for example, Cal Grants, to abide by all the nondiscrimination requirements of state law, even if this would violate the religious tenets of the entity. SB 1146 would affect the policies that religious colleges and universities have including student admissions, housing accommodations, behavioral standards, housing accommodations, and employment practices.
The only exemptions are for programs designed to prepare students specifically to become members of the clergy or work in ministry in a professional capacity.
An earlier version of the bill that prohibited religious institutions from imposing mandatory chapel attendance policies or required religion courses passed the California state Senate but was widely opposed. The current version allows religious institutions to “enforce religious practices” so long as they are applied in the same way to all students.
There is a common misperception about what the “suspense file” means. Many people think this is another way of saying that the bill will be “tabled” or not heard at all. The suspense file is a holding place for bills with “significant” (more than $150,000) fiscal impacts, and most bills are held in “suspense” while both the Senate and Assembly evaluate the total impact on the state. Bills that are moved out of suspense go directly to the floor of their respective houses while bills that remain in suspense die.
SB 1146 has already passed the California Senate and every committee to this point in the California Assembly. While large enough to reach the “significant” fiscal impact level, the bill is not particularly expensive to implement and will likely be moved out of the suspense file, meaning that a floor vote is highly likely before the end of the month. If it passes the Assembly, it will soon end up on the governor’s desk.
To read the current version of the bill and check the status visit: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billStatusClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB1146