A new California law mandates that private universities who discriminate against LGBT students must publicly disclose their policies on gender identity and sexual orientation.
On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 1146, which would require colleges to openly acknowledge any Title IX exemptions granted to them. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 bans discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation. In 2014, a memo from the Obama Administration claimed that those rights extended to gender identity—which would, thus, protect trans students from discrimination.
While those laws are in place, universities can skirt them by applying for an exemption through the U.S. Department of Education, if school administrators believe that following Title IX regulations would conflict with the institution’s religious beliefs.
“The department has very little discretion and most requests are granted,” reports Equality California.
In recent years, Equality California reports that increasing numbers of universities have been applying for exemptions through the Department of Education. Although just one institution filed for and received an exemption back in 2013, 43 schools have exemptions on the books today. At least six of those colleges reside in the Golden State.
That’s a particular problem because many young people don’t know these policies even exist.
“Many students are unaware of the exemption and what the potential consequences might be in the event their sexual orientation or gender identity does not align with the university’s discriminatory policies,” Equality California states. “Students and staff across the country have reported learning of an exemption only after being expelled from school or fired from their jobs.”
State Sen. Ricardo Lara said that SB 1146 will further transparency in the process, preventing students from being the unwitting victims of discrimination.
“No university should have the license to discriminate, especially those receiving state funds,” said Lara, who co-sponsored the legislation, in a press release. “This law represents a critical first step in the ongoing efforts to protect students from discrimination for living their truths or loving openly.”
Equality California director Rick Zbur added that the SB 1146 is in line with the state’s pre-existing protections for LGBT people.
“It is the longstanding policy and law of the state of California that state taxpayer dollars cannot be used to discriminate against LGBT people,” Zbur said in a statement. “If these colleges and universities want to continue to discriminate against LGBT students and employees, with cruel and harsh consequences for their lives, they should not expect California taxpayers to fund it.
The law is just one of a number of bills passed in California in recent weeks aimed at preventing discrimination against the state’s sizable LGBT population.
On Thursday, September 29, Gov. Brown signed a bill that would convert all single-occupancy public restrooms into all-gender bathrooms—following similar policies in cities like San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. The legislation was passed following protest from student groups at University of California Berkeley, who claimed there weren’t enough restrooms for trans students on campus.
SB 1146 will go into effect in 2017.