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Shocking! Discriminatory "religious freedom" bill introduced in California | UPDATED!

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Believe it or not, a “religious freedom” bill has been quietly introduced in the California Assembly, but its fate would appear doomed from the start in a blue state where Democrats control all branches of government.

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, who represents California’s Assembly District 34 and maintains an office in Bakersfield, introduced Assembly Bill 2237 on Feb. 21 with little fanfare.

The Republican lawmaker wants to amend the Unruh Civil Rights Act to grant an exception for religion.

According to the California Legislature website:

The Unruh Civil Rights Act provides that all persons within the state are free and equal, regardless of their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation, and are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.

This bill would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would provide an exception to the Unruh Civil Rights Act to protect the free exercise of religion.

AB 2237 is another one of those infamous “religious freedom” bills that sound so harmless but in reality would legally hijack of the rights of Americans, gay and straight, and allow businesses to hide behind their faith to discriminate against anyone they don’t like.

Grove’s bill has grabbed the attention of Equality California (EQCA), which is mounting a campaign against it as well as raising money for its efforts.

John O’Connor, executive director of EQCA, emailed supporters late Monday expressing his concern about AB 2237:

I know that many of you were shocked and outraged by Arizona’s deeply flawed and discriminatory bill SB 1062, which would have removed basic civil rights protections for LGBT people in Arizona under the misguided excuse of a religious exemption to anti-discrimination laws.

Would you believe me if I told you that a California legislator introduced a very similar bill right here in the Golden State?

It’s true. Assemblywoman Shannon Grove in California’s Assembly District 34 introduced a bill, AB 2237, that would give businesses a license to openly discriminate under the guise of religious freedom.

We’ve seen this attempted legislation pop up recently in places like Arizona, Kansas and Georgia, and we all know it’s a thinly veiled effort to sanction discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Now an opponent of equality wants to bring this brand of discrimination right here to our great state and we won’t have it.

Stand up with Equality California today and let Asm. Grove know that discrimination has no place in California.

Send her a letter telling her “Not in our state!” It will only take you 30 seconds to make sure that your voice is heard on this important issue.

We’re very proud that through the lasting work of Equality California and many other great organizations, as well as countless, dedicated legislators and individuals, we’ve moved California to the state with the most advanced protections for LGBT people in the country. This latest effort shows that as long as our adversaries continue to attack our community, we will always need political power and we will always need to defend equality.

O’Connor invited supporters to send an email or a fax to Grove regarding AB 2237, and readers can do so by clicking HERE.

The bill was read for the first time on Feb. 24, and could be heard in committee on March 25.

San Diego Gay & Lesbian News reached out to Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) for comment, but as of publication time had not heard back from her office. SDGLN will update this story if Atkins replies in a timely manner.

Dale Bankhead, a spokesperson for Atkins, sent a brief email in reply: "The bill was just introduced, so the LGBT Legislative Caucus will be taking a look at it in the next day or so."

The Unruh Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1959 and amended in 2005 to include “sexual orientation,” even though the courts had determined that the LGBT community was covered under the original law.

SDGLN sent questions by email to Assemblywoman Grove about who was behind the bill and why she would sponsor anti-gay legislation in an Assembly controlled by Democrats. The email was never returned with answers to the questions.

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Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.