A little-known moral concerns group was largely responsible for marshaling public opinion against a California bill that would have protected homosexuals from employment discrimination. Gov. George Deukmejian was swamped by nearly 100,000 phone calls and letters—thought to be the most ever received by a California governor on a single subject. An overwhelming number of those contacting the governor opposed the bill.
The Republican governor agonized for 13 days before vetoing the bill last month. Support for the veto was organized by the Sacramento-based Committee on Moral Concerns, headed by W. B. Timberlake, a retired Southern Baptist preacher and a former lawyer.
“Several Christian radio and television stations and a lot of people were alerted,” said Art Croney, the committee’s associate lobbyist.
Appeals to Christian groups and the 8,000 subscribers to the committee’s newsletter helped generate a flood of letters, telegrams, and calls to Deukmejian’s office.
Five days before the veto, Timberlake and several state legislators presented their case against the measure to the governor and his staff. They argued that in effect it would make homosexuals a legal minority group with employment privileges. Advocates of the bill, including state assemblyman Art Agnos, had met with the governor earlier that day.
With the measure still on Deukmejian’s desk, a coalition of pastors and the American Life Lobby held a prayer rally involving some 700 persons on the north steps of the state capitol. A much smaller group of gay-rights activists staged a rally at the same time on the south steps.
The governor’s veto message said that “a person’s sexual orientation should not be a basis for the establishment of a special protected class of individuals, ...1
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