SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Democrat-controlled California Assembly passed a bill today mandating fines of up to $150,000 against business owners – including Bible bookstores and nonprofit organizations such as the Boy Scouts – for refusing to hire cross-dressing and transsexual job applicants.

After more than 45 minutes of debate, with a majority of speakers opposing the bill, AB 196 passed the Assembly by the narrowest of margins. The vote was 41 to 34, the bare minimum needed to advance the bill to the state Senate. All the “yes” votes on AB 196 were from Democrats. Voting “no” were 31 Republicans and three Democrats – Lou Correa of Santa Ana, Nicole Parra of Bakersfield and Sarah Reyes of Fresno. Abstaining were Republican Bonnie Garcia of El Centro and four Democrats: Ed Chavez of La Puente, Jerome Horton of Inglewood, Barbara Matthews of Stockton and George Nakano of Torrance.

Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco

Authored by homosexual Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, AB 196 would insert a new definition of “gender” into the powerful state Fair Employment and Housing Act. The bill’s subjective definition of “gender” is “identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not that identity, appearance, or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the victim’s sex at birth.”

Leno has cited reports from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the San Francisco Department of Public Health and several other studies that have documented widespread discrimination against what he calls “transgender people.”

“In San Francisco studies indicate that the unemployment rate for transgender people is 70 percent,” Leno said. “Every Californian deserves the right to a job and to a home.

“We must do everything in our power to protect such fundamental human rights,” he said.

AB 196 would force employers to allow male employees to wear women’s clothes and deny religious business owners to follow their own moral convictions opposing cross-dressing or sex changes.

“We’re going to use the might of government to come forward at this point of time and say you can be fined over a hundred thousand dollars if for some reason the image you want to put forward in your business does not comport to how an employee wants to dress,” said Assemblyman Rick Keene of Chico. “I’m urging a ‘no’ vote.”

Assemblyman John Campbell of Irvine was one of several members who spoke about how AB 196 further harms California businesses.

“This (bill) talks about ‘gender,’ but in the concept of the individual’s perception of their gender, thereby making that protected class something that can change, can come in and out, can go back and forth and is not identifiable through any physical attribute,” he said. “This bill will cause untold lawsuits, untold new problems in the workplace and further denies the right of businesses to earn your patronage.”

Also speaking against AB 196 was Dennis Mountjoy of Monrovia.

“If I have a Christian bookstore, how could I possibly follow this law?” he asked. “How could I possibly have an employee that’s here today in a dress, tomorrow may come in a suit, and then stay in a dress? How can I possibly employ this employee and still have the Christian bookstore and live by my faith?”

“You are messing with people’s perception of their souls and their afterlife,” said Assemblyman Ray Haynes of Temecula. “You are telling people who sincerely and strongly believe in a faith that they cannot exercise that faith without being forced into bankruptcy or not owning property or not starting a business! You are imposing your belief on what you think their faith ought to say.”

Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, has so far remained silent on AB 196.

“This bill would give drag queens unprecedented power to persecute the Boy Scouts and religious businesses, even the power to shut down a Bible bookstore,” said Randy Thomasson, executive director of Campaign for California Families, a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan family issues leadership organization. “People aren’t going to sacrifice their dearly-held values. What small business or nonprofit organization could financially survive a government investigation and a $150,000 penalty? AB 196 is grossly intolerant of religious freedom and the Boy Scouts. This radical bill engages in reverse discrimination and would do real harm to persons of conscience.”

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