If you haven’t heard of it, which you just might not have, since when I “Googled” it I didn’t get a single hit from a major media outlet, SB 777 is an amendment to the State of California’s Education Code which, among other things, removes the following definition in the original:
“Sex” means the biological condition or quality of being a male or female human being,”
and replaces it with:
“Gender” means sex, and includes a person’s gender identity and gender related appearance and behavior whether or not stereotypically associated with the person’s assigned sex at birth.
Now this has got the Religious Right all in a tizzy about what it will mean for our school children, to be exposed to all those icky, gender-confused GLBT types who can’t seem to figure out which symbol on the bathroom door applies to them, yada yada yada. As usual, they are fighting the wrong fight.
The essence of this amendment, which was passed and signed into law by Gov. Schwarzenegger on Oct 12th of 2007, is to expand the definitions of the types of minority and special interest groups to be protected under the “hate crime” umbrella (committing a “hate crime” is a felony in California). More than that, it moves beyond the quantifiable aspects into the realms of perception and feelings. It includes people who might be “perceived” as being a member of a certain type of group, or even one who “associates” with a certain demographic. In other words, it’s not even so much about what you actually did or said, but rather it’s about how your actions or words were perceived by the other person.
While the implications of the removal of the distinctions between the sexes, and the permitting of individuals to “self-identify” their sexuality or gender regardless of physiology are troubling, they are far and away minor and tertirary issues when compared to the real core of what is contained in this legislation.
The Bottom Line Up Front is this: This amendment codifies into law the increasingly widespread practice of denying access to public facilities to groups which hold “discriminatory” views. The Boy Scouts, for example, have been under fire the past few years for their policy of not allowing avowed homosexuals to be Scout masters. This stance has resulted in the loss of access to facilities to which the Boy Scouts have historically had longstanding relationships.
SB 777 mandates that public/government funds cannot be given to or used for any group or organization which does not hold to the tenets of Sec. 200 of the Education Code, which states:
“It is the policy of the State of California to afford all persons in public schools, regardless of their disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic that is contained in the definition of hate crimes set forth in Section 422.55 of the Penal Code, equal rights and opportunities in the educational institutions of the state.”
This becomes important farther down in the bill where it states: ”
51500. No teacher shall give instruction nor shall a school district sponsor any activity that promotes a discriminatory bias because of a characteristic listed in Section 220.”
72014. No funds under the control of a community college district shall ever be used for membership or for any participation involving a financial payment or contribution, on behalf of the district or any individual employed by or associated therewith, in any private organization whose membership practices are discriminatory on the basis of the characteristics listed in Section 66270.
This is significant in that providing discounted access to facilities to groups such as the Boy Scouts can be and is interpreted to equate to financial benefit or largesse. Thus, under the terms of this statute, since the Boy Scouts portray homosexuality in a “negative” light (by failing to promote or encourage it), they are now BY LAW prohibited from receiving any financial assistance or benefit from State educational institutions.
The rub will come when the kind of great legal minds that found Roe V. Wade in the Fourth Amendment determine that providing “free” access to conference rooms or classrooms to groups who don’t toe the correct ideological line, is in effect helping these groups avoid paying rent anywhere else, and so are providing an indirect financial benefit, which, of course, will be determined to be in violation of this statute. Don’t think so? Google “9th Circuit Court of Appeals” and get back to me.
Inevitably, it will be taken one step further. Student organizations on a college campus which receive any money in the form of operating expenses, a budge for office supplies, or again, free access to university facilities, will now have to “qualify” for these benefits by signing some form, as a part of their charter, that states that they are in compliance with section 72014 of the California Education Code.
Also of note, teachers cannot present any curriculim which portrays any of the groups mentioned in a negative light. By reading the tone and phrasing of this amendment, portaying a group negatively equates to failing to portray them positively. Nor can teachers include in their syllabus any materials which might promote one lifestyle over another, as this “portrays negatively” competing views. Homosexual couples must be placed on an equal footing with hetrosexual couples, and will undoubtedly be required to receive equal amounts of exposure. Read 72014 again. “…any activity that promotes a discriminatory bias.” Not just “discriminates against,” but “promotes a bias.” In other words, ANYTHING which might ultimately lead to a certain group or culture being viewed in a negative light by someone cannot be presented in a classroom, in an assembly, or by a guest speaker.
Ultimately, at the quantum level, what this means is that you cannot prohibit or condemn anything. All viewpoints are equal, there is no right or wrong, there is only how I chose to be perceived, and that has to be okay, no matter what. By trying to prevent someone from “expressing their sexuality” or ” expressing their cultural identity” or “exploring their unique gender identity” you would be expressing a negative stereotype.
On the plus side, under section 212.3:
” ‘Religion’ includes all aspects of religious belief, observance, and practice and includes agnosticism and atheism.”
So, for all the the rabid atheists out there who are tempted to refer to “those religious people” in a negative light, Atheism and agnosticism are ALSO defined as religious views. On the down side, read that again verrry carefully. “ALL ASPECTS of religious belief, observance and practice.” You cannot, by law, discriminate against a person because of any religious belief, which, like their sexuality, can be totally self-defined. Thus, anything goes. “It’s part of my religion” can readily becomes a justification for all manner of behaviors. “It’s part of my sexuality,” immediately limits what actions can be taken by a school administrator for any manner of activities. And of course, the always popular, “It’s just part of my cultcha.”
This law or amendment removes almost every traditional boundary, limit or restriction on personal behavior in our schools. As the list of the protected classes grows, the resources that you have left to maintain discipline and order in your schools declines exponentially. However, the true significance of this is not that boys might get to use the girls’ bathroom, but that it ties the concepts of “thought crimes” and “hate speech” more strongly than ever before into the State’s felony “hate crimes” statutes.
This is a dead win for the “moral relativity” crowd. All views are equal, there is no truth but what I decide it to be, and you have to respect MY definition or be branded a bigot and a hater. And now, more than ever before, you can lose your job and/or go to jail if you don’t.
While on the surface it may sound great — “Hey, what’s the big deal, this means nobody get’s discriminated against!” — the primary groups which traditionally have sought to espouse moral restraint or the drawing of clear behavioral limits and boundaries are the conservative religious ones. Thus, the groups most likely to run afoul of this revised code are those who hold “traditional” values and are reluctant to permit or encourage behaviors contrary to their faith and bylaws. So while at first glance you might think, “Great! This means liberal teachers can’t bad-mouth Christians or conservative groups anymore!” historical precedent suggests that this isn’t how the statute is likely to be enforced at all.
In other words, it’s not that no one gets discriminated against…just those who won’t get on board with a moral or spiritual free for all. And by law –in California at least — this type of discrimination is now not only permitted but required.