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California Considers Ban On Anti-Gay Political Campaigns

(San Francisco, California) Legislation has been introduced in the California Assembly to prevent discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) individuals in political campaigns.

If passed it would prohibit the use of any negative appeal based on prejudice against LGBT people by candidates or campaign committees who sign the voluntary pledge provided for in the Code of Fair Campaign Practices.

Currently, existing law establishes a Code of Fair Campaign Practices to which a candidate may voluntarily subscribe and provides a pledge by which the candidate declares that he or she will not use or permit any appeal to negative prejudice based on race, sex, religion, national origin, physical health status, or age.

"In the politically divisive debate over the rights of LGBT people, there are many instances of candidates and campaigns using a negative appeal for support using anti-gay rhetoric," said Speaker pro Tem Yee (D-San Francisco/Daly City) who introduced the measure.

"These negative appeals are potentially dangerous to the LGBT community, and in some campaigns have led to an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, and instances of violence. AB 866 will hopefully put an end to this type of victimization and discrimination against the LGBT community."

Anti-gay rhetoric, which often comes in the form of political hate messages, is directly connected to violence against gay and lesbian individuals, said Equality California, the state's largest LGBT civil rights organization.

Incidents of violence against LGBT people have peaked in national elections years, such as in 2004 during the presidential campaign, in which lesbian and gay issues played an unprecedented role at both the national and local levels, the group noted in a statement. In 2003, when San Francisco became ground zero in the struggle over same-sex marriage rights, incidents of violence rose over 14 percent in the city.

"Civil discourse is the solid foundation of our democracy," said Steve Hansen, EQCA’s Legislative Advocate.

"This legislation puts candidates and campaign committees on notice that using anti-gay rhetoric and campaign tactics is not acceptable."

In 1996, then Assemblymember Shelia Kuehl, introduced nearly identical legislation, which failed in its first hearing in a 3-4 vote.

The Registrar of Voters is required to provide the candidate a blank form on which to subscribe to the Code of Fair Campaign Practices, and a copy of the Elections Code provisions at the time a declaration of candidacy, nomination papers, or any other paper evidencing an intention to be a candidate for public office are issued.

Subscription to the Code of Fair Campaign Practices is voluntary. Completed forms are to be filed with the Registrar of Voters, and are retained for public inspection until 30 days after the election.

by Mary Ellen Peterson 365Gay.com San Francisco Bureau
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