Prospective foster parents in California will get more antidiscrimination training if a pro-gay bill that cleared the state assembly on Monday becomes law. The bill, which passed on a 46-28 vote after fierce debate between Democrats and Republicans, aims to make sure that foster parents respect a child's race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation. Assemblywoman Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) said the bill makes it "clear that it is unacceptable to insult, to assault, to do some name-calling against a foster child." She said the legislation requires that prospective foster parents "listen to the fact that there's a law pertaining to discrimination against children." Chu's office maintains there are approximately 250,000 foster children in California.
Republican assembly members opposed the bill, calling it part of a "social agenda" to advance gay rights, and predicted that it will cause a greater shortage of foster parents. Opponents said most foster parents are faith-oriented and believe homosexuality is wrong. "Options are one thing, but when it's not optional for families of faith and values that don't support this, it's wrong," said Assemblyman Doug La Malfa (R-Biggs). But Democratic backers called the bill "sensible, compassionate, and responsible." Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) said, "We want to make sure gay teens don't stay with foster parents who aren't equipped to deal with these issues in a healthy and caring way."
Chu triggered much the same debate last year with a bill requiring that prospective foster parents take "sensitivity training" regarding children's race, religion, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. Gov. Gray Davis vetoed that bill because it also directed the state to recruit gay foster care providers in the same way it recruits minority-group providers. Davis said the state's budget crisis prevented it from taking on a major new outreach effort.