A bill that has alarmed religious universities in the state of California over the past several months has been amended on Monday to take out a portion that would have required those institutions to provide restrooms according to gender identity and housing for same-sex married couples, among other requirements.
Section 3 of the bill, known as Senate Bill 1146, is the portion that has been amended. Previously, the section included specific requirements for religious institutions that receive financial assistance from the state or enrolls students who receive financial aid from the state (such as Cal Grants), including requirements to have the aforementioned restroom and housing accommodations, as well as requirements to enforce religious practices and rules of moral conduct only if "uniformly applicable to all students regardless of the student's sexual orientation or gender identity."
The previous version of that section also included a portion that said violations of those requirements listed in the bill could be enforced with lawsuits against the religious institution.
The bill was amended to take out that section completely, and insert a new Section 3 which requires institutions that claim Title IX exemptions to submit to the Student Aid Commission quarterly reports detailing why students were suspended or expelled during the past quarter, and whether those students were Cal Grant recipients.
The other two main sections of the bill -- which includes requirements to provide disclosures to students and employees in school materials that the school has claimed exemptions from Title IX in the Education Amendments of 1972 (a clause requiring non-discrimination based on sex in schools) and why the school has done so, among others -- remained the same.
"The goal for me has always been to shed the light on the appalling and unacceptable discrimination against LGBT students at these private religious institutions throughout California," Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) told the Los Angeles Times.
"I don't want to rush a bill that's going to have unintended consequences so I want to take a break to really study this issue further," he added.
Religious institutions and leaders have been actively expressing opposition to the bill, creating a website called 'Oppose SB 1146,' holding meetings with local religious leaders regarding the issue, and releasing public statements of opposition signed by major religious figures across the country. Religious leaders have heralded the changes as a victory.
"It appears that we have won a battle in the war to defend religious freedom, but we anticipate that many more battles remain," wrote Kurt Krueger, the president of Concordia University, in a statement.
"Biola University is grateful to the senator for his continued commitment to working with AICCU (Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities) on our behalf to retain the state's commitment to access, opportunity, and choice," said Biola University in a statement. "Biola will change its position on this legislation from 'oppose unless amended' to 'support.' Biola has long held to the importance of transparency in explaining their policies and the reasons for them."
"We share the senator's concerns for student safety, transparency, and recourse, particularly for LGBT students," wrote Azusa Pacific University in a statement. "We want those same protections for [all] students."
Prior to the recent changes made on the bill on Monday, SB 1146 had been passed by the state Senate in May, and it was most recently approved by the state Assembly Appropriations Committee on August 11.