Cover Story

The Liberal Future?

Ever wonder what would happen if liberal Democrats gained control of both chambers of a state's legislature and the state's governorship at the same time? It happened in California, and the results show just how much damage can be done

Issue: "When liberals seize a state," Aug. 31, 2002

SAN DIEGO—In mid-August, as kids counted down the remaining days of summer, Janine Tomlin discovered in her mailbox a letter from the San Diego County Office of Education. Mrs. Tomlin, a homeschooler and mother of four, opened the letter and read it three times, just to be sure she understood what it said. She did: The county education office was writing to say that it is now illegal for Golden State parents to homeschool their children independently of public schools.

"Enclosed you will find a list of district and county office homeschool programs," the letter stated. "... Please contact one of them immediately if you are interested in continuing homeschooling, so that you will be operating within the law."

The letter was "so California," Mrs. Tomlin told WORLD. "A classic case of intimidation. The most disheartening thing about it is that I am not the least bit surprised." She's not surprised because, as a Californian, she has already learned what most Americans have not: what happens when liberals take over a state.

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Pressuring homeschoolers to shackle themselves to public schools is just one symptom of the malady that has afflicted the nation's most populous state. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Easton is a Democrat who opposes homeschools but supports dumbed-down academic standards and homosexual-sensitivity training in public ones. Her party also controls the governor's chair and both chambers of the California legislature. That has resulted in four years of largely unchecked legislative liberalism that threatens traditional morality, religious freedom, free-market economics, and the unborn.

Example: California leads the nation in enshrining homosexual behavior in law. Over the past four years the number of "gay-rights" bills considered annually in all states more than doubled, from about 130 to nearly 300, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The bills range from legalizing gay adoption and granting marital rights to same-sex partners, to preventing contractors who object to homosexual behavior from bidding on state projects. But states with a balance of liberal and conservative power have been able to limit the advance of gay-rights laws, while passing some reasonable bills that benefit people with HIV/AIDS. New York Democratic lawmakers, for example, served up 41 pro-gay bills in 2001, more than any other state. But because Republicans held a majority in the state Senate, and Republican George Pataki occupied the governor's chair, only one of those laws-one related to HIV-passed.

Meanwhile, eight of 19 pro-gay laws passed in California in 2001, bringing to 22 the total number of such laws passed in the state over the last four years-more than any other state in the nation. Similar "progressive" lawmaking extends to abortion, taxes, and the environment. For example, a bill that would make abortion training mandatory for Golden State medical students considering an OB-GYN specialty is now advancing through Democrat-controlled committees. But a 2002 bill that would have required a mother considering abortion to see an ultrasound picture of her child died a rapid death.

Should anyone be surprised that California, the sun-soaked playground of Hollywood and San Francisco libertines, is suffering the effects of scorched-earth liberalism? Art Croney thinks so. Although Hollywood and San Francisco define California in the minds of other Americans, "the rest of the state is made up of mainstream Americans," said Mr. Croney, head of the Committee on Moral Concerns, and a conservative lobbyist in Sacramento for more than 25 years. "The average California family is still pretty middle-of-the-road."

At least Californians often vote that way on referenda. Although registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans 45 percent to 35 percent, another 20 percent of Golden State voters are registered as "other" or "decline to state," according to the California secretary of state. Those last two categories may be the ones swinging substantial voter majorities in favor of recent, conservative-minded statewide ballot measures such as those that banned race and gender preferences (55 percent), eliminated most public-school bilingual education (61 percent), and affirmed marriage as a union between a man and a woman (61 percent).

The problem, said Mr. Croney, is that Californians have elected representatives who are much more liberal than they are: "There's a disconnect between the philosophies of mainstream Californians and the majority philosophy in Sacramento." Four openly lesbian lawmakers-Assemblywomen Christine Kehoe, Carole Migden, and Jackie Goldberg, and Senator Sheila Kuehl-have become particularly influential.

It is now state law that:

  • All K-12 schoolchildren must be taught to "appreciate" various sexual orientations.
  • Public-school teachers and counselors must identify children with the potential to be "intolerant" of homosexuality-and refer them for retraining.
  • School sports teams that object to homosexual or transsexual behavior may be barred from participating in California Interscholastic Federation sports.
  • All taxpayers must fund marriage-equivalent benefits for homosexual partners of state employees.
  • Nonprofit groups such as the Boy Scouts that refuse to hire homosexuals may be fined up to $150,000 per incident.
  • A person's "gender" is whatever he or she says it is, regardless of biology.

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