Under public pressure, liberal California lawmakers have amended a controversial bill that targets religious colleges and universities.
SB 1146 was amended by its author, Sen. Ricardo Lara (pictured above), amid public outcry that its pro-homosexual language was forcing religious schools to accept homosexual students or lose financial aid.
OneNewsNow reported in June that federal law allows religious schools to skirt Title IX laws and the California bill sought to close that loop hole by allowing students to sue.
Opponents of SB 1146 have been warning of its anti-religious language for months and in recent weeks they pointed out that minority students would be forced to choose between a religious-affiliated university or a public university.
Thousands of California students utilize "Cal Grant," the state's largest financial aid program.
According to the Becket Fund, warning legislators that SB 1146 would hurt minority students "helped turn the tide" against the bill. Minorities have much higher graduation rates at religious institutions and the bill would take away their scholarships, Becket and others argued.
"I think that minority students spoke with a very loud voice and politicians, as they should, listened," Becket spokesman Montserrat Alvarado tells OneNewsNow.
Brad Dacus of Pacific Justice Institute says Sen. Lara's surrender is an "immediate, short-term relief" for PJI and many others who opposed the legislation.
"But in the long term it's still very serious and very problematic," he says, "in terms of religious freedom and equal opportunity for low-income and middle-income students."
The bill allows religious colleges and universities to maintain their strict conduct codes that conflict with California's permissive, left-wing views about homosexual rights. But those same schools would be required by law to report any students who are expelled for violating the codes.
"The goal for me," Lara told The Los Angeles Times, "has always been to shed the light on the appalling and unacceptable discrimination against LGBT students at these private religious institutions throughout California."
The current bill, if passed, would give Lara and other legislators access to accounts of discrimination by LGBT students.
Such incidents are reported to the Commission on Student Aid, and the Times story quotes Lara saying those reports "will give him information on how common such cases are."
Dacus calls that requirement an "unprecedented, unheard of intervention by the government in the affairs and operations of religious institutions and colleges and universities."
The bill is likely to pass and will likely set the stage for stronger legislation next year, Dacus warns.
Comments from Becket Fund have been added to the original version of this story.