Bill to Protect LGBT Students from Discrimination at Private Universities Signed by Governor

Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a bill that requires private universities receiving public funds to publicly disclose if they discriminate against students based on their gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation, Ricardo Lara's office announced.

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Under Senate Bill 1146, authored by Senator Ricardo Lara and signed by the governor in September, universities exempt from Title IX that receive state funding as Cal Grants will be required to notify students and staff about their lack of non-discrimination protections.

“No university should have a license to discriminate, especially those receiving state funds," said Senator Lara in a statement. "Those that do will now have to inform students and the public of their Title IX exemption. This law represents a critical first step in the ongoing efforts to protect students from discrimination for living their truths or loving openly.”​​

Title IX, at the federal level, prohibits discrimination based on gender, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity, in education programs and activities that receive federal funding, according to the release. If a university upholds the belief that adhering to Title IX would conflict with its religion, it may submit a request for exemption to the US Department of Education.

“The department has very little discretion and most requests are granted,” the release stated.

“The public needs to know which schools have licenses to discriminate against LGBT people and to ignore California’s civil rights protections,” stated Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, the sponsor of the legislation. “This law will give fair warning to students, staff and faculty members before they accept enrollment or employment at a university with a license to discriminate.”

Over the past three years, a significant increase of universities have applied for an exemption of Title IX, with one school’s request granted in 2013. Today, some 43 schools across the nation have been granted exemptions, with at least six located in California, according to Lara.

Currently, universities with Title IX exemptions are not required to disclose such exemptions to students or staff. Students not informed of the exemption may face unwanted consequences of attending a university that has discriminatory policies, of which the students are unaware.

“Students and staff across the country have reported learning of an exemption only after being expelled from school or fired from their jobs,” stated a release.

“California has established strong protections for the LGBTQ community and private universities should not be able to use faith as an excuse to discriminate,” said Lara in a statement.

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