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The California State Senate recently approved SB 1146, an anti-discrimination bill authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara and sponsored by Equality California.

SB 1146 offers more protections to the California LGBT community by closing a loophole that allows discrimination against private university students and staff due to their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

What is California SB 1146?

SB 1146 protects LGBT people in California by requiring universities that are granted a Title IX exemption to disclose those details to the California Student Aid Commission, plus distribute the information to both staff members and students. Additionally, if an individual encounters discrimination at a school claiming a Title IX exemption, they would be allowed to pursue civil action under the new law. SB 1146 would affect over 30 California higher education institutions that hold religious exemptions under either state or federal anti-discrimination laws.

SB 1146 Closes a Harmful Title IX Loophole

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sexual orientation discrimination and gender discrimination (including gender identity) in education programs that receive federal funds. Private universities, however, can often avoid compliance if they believe that their school values conflict with Title IX requirements. Universities are able to submit an exemption request to the U.S. Department of Education, and are typically granted the exemption by the department.

But SB 1146 makes these universities’ biases public, informing students, staff members and other academic institutions ahead of time so that certain individuals can protect themselves from being targets of discrimination.

Currently, at least 43 private institutions across the United States have received such exemptions. As of right now, these universities don’t have to disclose this information to faculty, staff or students. This can be harmful to LGBT individuals who have no idea what type of educational institution they are attending or working at, and what sorts of consequences this exemption may have for their health, safety and well-being.

Many LGBT Students Expelled, Staff Fired Due to Sexual Orientation

If an individual who is employed by or enrolled in a private university, but is unaware of a Title IX exemption, they can be caught off guard by being fired or expelled. All across the country, both staff and students have reported learning of Title IX exemptions only after being let go.

Transgender students have also been denied access to gender appropriate housing, or expelled after revealing their gender identity.

“Under state law, at least 34 California universities are exempt and do not have to comply with state non-discrimination laws, leaving thousands of students open to discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Senator Ricardo Lara said in a statement. “These universities have a license to discriminate and students have absolutely no recourse. Addressing this issue is long overdue.”

In addition to SB 1146, a similar bill would require schools to adhere to California’s nondiscrimination requirements so that LGBT students can receive Cal Grant financial aid.

California SB 1146: Resources for Further Reading

  • Bill Text – SB 1146 SB-1146 Post-secondary education: nondiscrimination
  • Overview of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1974
  • Senate approves bill to protect LGBT students against discrimination at private universities via LGBT Weekly
  • Senate bill says religion no excuse for LGBT discrimination via The Sacramento Bee

No one should have to worry about discrimination due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. If you feel your university or employer is violating Title IX or California anti-discrimination laws, contact our passionate Los Angeles LGBT discrimination attorneys at Hennig Ruiz for a free consultation.