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CA Colleges, Judiciary Putting Sexual-Orientation Question On Applications. Good News Or Bad?

Once upon a time, it was standard practice to ask a potential hire if they were married—and if they were a woman, if they were planning on having kids any time soon. Times changed (for the better) and certain inquiries were ruled unacceptable on applications and in interviews.

But now, the wheel has turned and questions about sexual orientation are cropping up again on forms and surveys. Not to exclude anyone, this time, but ostensibly to create a more diverse environment.

Recently, the Judicial Applicant Data Report was sent to judges in California and, among the numerous questions, jurists were asked to state their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The questions are the result of  legislative measure SB 182, enacted last year, that aims to add sexual diversity to other considerations.

As Equality California explains:

Diversity on the bench matters. Yet California’s judiciary suffers from a lack of diversity. SB 182 ensures that voluntary data on the gender identity and sexual orientation of potential judges is gathered through the state’s Judicial Applicant Data Report, alongside existing questions on gender and racial or ethnic identity.

The online survey is voluntary and names are kept confidential but some 40% of the Golden State’s bench-warmers refused to answer the question.

But, as we all claimed when Judge Vaughn Walker ruled against Prop 8 in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, that the orientation of a judge has no bearing on his or her decisions, why are we asking?

Fox News, hardly the standard bearer for fair-and-balanced coverage, actually raises a valid point:

Critics say the question, much like asking about religious preference and voting records, is immaterial to a judge’s qualifications and ability to weigh evidence. They say the survey amounts to an invasion of privacy, and a threat to fair rulings from the bench.

“This is an outrageous violation of the total concept of blind justice and equality for all,” says Brad Dacus, president of the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute.

Dacus says appointments should be based solely on competence and experience. “We should work hard to oppose bias on the bench and off the bench when it comes to the selection of judges, and the criteria by which they are evaluated. That’s what true equality is all about, and that’s what people want when it comes to presiding over their cases in a courtroom.”

But maybe the point of the question is to ensure judges aren’t being overlooked because of the sexuality or gender expression? If so, the findings aren’t so encouraging: Just over 1% stated they were gay or transgender.

At the same time, the University of California school system may be asking incoming students to reveal their sexual orientation.

According to ABC News, only students already planning on coming to U of CA schools will be asked:

The system’s Academic Senate initiated the proposal, which would add an additional question to the statements of intent students fill out when deciding to go to the University of California. The statements already include a host of identifiers such as race,  gender, and ethnicity.

The question will not be asked on applications to the schools because students may feel uncomfortable filling out the forms in front of their parents, according to Robert Anderson, chair of the senate.

The idea is to make sure enough services and funding are given to provide for LGBT students, which is great, of course.

But it seems it will be part of the acceptance form, meaning it won’t be anonymous. And how accurate a tally would it be if many incoming freshman haven’t come out yet, or see their sexuality as more complicated than a multiple-choice question.

As we’ve seen time and again, once information is out there, there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle.

Or maybe we’re worrying to much: What do you think? Is asking jurists and college kids about their sexual orientation just as harmless as asking about their age and gender. Or is it still a sensitive topic that should be handled very carefully, lest it be used against them down the line.

Make your verdict known in the comments. Class dismissed!

By:           Dan Avery
On:           Mar 15, 2012
Tagged: , , ,
  • 19 Comments
    • The Real Mike in Asheville
      The Real Mike in Asheville

      When I showed up for classes at Berkeley in 1978, the student counseling center already had gay/lesbian support groups, under the direction of a super sweetheart, Tom Youngblood. BUT, it took me 2 years before I had the guts to show up and take advantage of the support. In our group, there were upper and lower classmen along with a couple graduate students. Some knew before arriving at college they were gay, some, like me, sorta knew but very confused, and others only began figuring things out well into their college life.

      I am all for gaining better information and using that information to expand the health and safety of gay/lesbian students. With proper information safeguards, this is a great advance and I hope that coming out gets easier for each successive freshman class.

      [Of course, helping to figure this all out, it didn’t hurt that a pretty hot junior went jogging by me my first day of class. His smile caught my attention, my responding smile caught his. Fifteen minutes later I learned what tea room sex was!]

      Mar 15, 2012 at 5:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Real Mike in Asheville
      The Real Mike in Asheville

      Oh, and to Dan Avery, a small point of petty pride, but its “UC” not “U of CA” and each campus is UC + City/Abbreviation. Of course we smug ones from Berkeley, knew that only Berkeley is referred to California and Cal.

      Mar 15, 2012 at 5:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jason
      jason

      Any survey will vastly under-count the number of gay and bisexual men. That’s because there is still a strong stigma on male-male sexuality amongst the youth of today. Male-male is associated with a loss of manhood. Very few men will admit to being gay or bisexual, even though there are enormous numbers of men who are bisexually oriented.

      Mar 15, 2012 at 5:51 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • iDavid
      iDavid

      Ask if someones gay on an application? With this major nuclear war against gays going on? Are they nuts? Wait ten years then pull your pink pompoms out in a church parking lot. Till then, no f***ng way.

      Mar 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • KyleW
      KyleW

      @iDavid: Agreed. no place for questions about sexuality on a job questionnaire, and really dumb to answer honestly.

      Mar 15, 2012 at 9:16 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Joe stratford
      Joe stratford

      I think it’s a good idea for colleges. It shows that we are here and here to stay. That we are part of the community. It’s empowering to be counted.

      As long as it’s voluntary and anonymous. Just like how they collect race, sex and ethnicityinformation in job applications.

      Mar 16, 2012 at 2:58 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Geoff B
      Geoff B

      I’m torn on this. One one hand, it could allow GLBT students to stand up and be counted and on the other, it could be used as a witch hunt. I guess it depends on the school.

      Mar 16, 2012 at 5:52 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Real Mike in Asheville
      The Real Mike in Asheville

      @jason: Wow, a logical post, who knew?

      Yes, there will be underreporting, and there will continue to be underreporting so long as social participation in the general community remains underground. Every effort requires a beginning, and the sooner that beginning starts, the sooner gay and lesbian kids will become more and more comfortable expressing themselves.

      I would also point out that confusing and growing are not the same thing as underreporting. Not by any means do kids and young adults understand their own sexuality and are still maturing into themselves. I understood about myself at the end of high school; by comparison, my hubby and I are the same age, same graduating classes (1978: HS/1982:college) and he didn’t figure it out until his senior year in college.

      Mar 16, 2012 at 8:00 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jason
      jason

      They should simply assume that all men are gay or bisexual. There – problem solved. No one misses out.

      Mar 16, 2012 at 8:07 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Real Mike in Asheville
      The Real Mike in Asheville

      @iDavid: Your so-called “nuclear war” is NOTHING compared to the real nuclear war waged in the 80s-90s due to HIV/AIDS. Sure there are many enemies of equality fighting against our civil rights; yet, we are the one winning this war: there is no longer ANY legal basis against engaging same-sex sex; 7 states have marriage equality and the list grows every new legislative session; courts are now finding in our favor for marriage-equality; other than DOMA — which has been found unconstitutional now by three different federal courts, there are NO federal sanctioned discrimination against same-sex; survey after survey shows growing and growing support for equity.

      Over the course of the last 27 years, when the first publicly available HIV antibody tests became available, millions of tests have been taken, and there have over 2.5 million positive results. And, after all this time and all those cases, there has not been a single victim of witch-hunts based on anti-body testing. The handful of horrible “witch hunts” were at the hands of those who were informed of HIV/AIDS by patients such as the Ryan White situation and the sad cases where gay roommates turned on eachother kicking HIV+s out of their homes.

      The article states that UC is using Letters of Intent, not applications, in order to provide prospective students privacy. As a gay Cal Alum, I wish UC were actually the frontrunner on this effort as Cal lead the free speech movement, the anti-Vietnam War movement, and while I was there, led the anti-Aparthied movement getting UC to divest billions of dollars from corporations doing business with South Africa.

      Mar 16, 2012 at 8:20 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Pete
      Pete

      Why is this data needed PRIOR to admission? Maybe it could be voluntarily provided after admission, ut who knows what kind of data bases this will end up in, how it could be used in the future to deny insurance coverage, etc.

      I also think it is a terrible idea for judicial applicants to be asked this, even if not required. Homophobes will keep gays out of the judiciary.

      Mar 16, 2012 at 8:31 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jim Hlavac
      Jim Hlavac

      “Diversity” by mere quota of numbers is not needed — what is needed is a “oh, who gives a damn” attitude. The idea that a mere fixed number of anyone will somehow make everything all peachy and rosy is ludicrous. And indeed, with this quota driven “diversity,” what is instilled is the idea that we need exactly X number of gays, Y number of Jews, Z number of blacks, etc etc, and no more of them — to be “diverse.” And, too, suppose every qualified person for judge (or any position,) in CA is gay — does that mean we have to have so many hetero anti-gay Christians for “diversity” but not appoint the qualified gay folks? Suppose not one gay person is qualified by merit to be judge, does this mean we have less-than-qualified judges based on mere smooching? Not to mention — it’s not the government’s business who you smooch. The whole thing is mush headed.

      Mar 16, 2012 at 10:08 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JayKay
      JayKay

      @Jim Hlavac:

      This.

      Affirmative action is always a bad thing, regardless of whether the beneficiary is gay or not.

      Mar 16, 2012 at 11:47 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • WillBFair
      WillBFair

      They should use an anonomous questionaire just to get the total number of queens, for funding puposes.

      Mar 16, 2012 at 12:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kyle
      Kyle

      I side with gay men who feel shame towards themselves as gay men, and gay people in general.

      I’m ashamed of being a homosexual so no, this is a bad idea. I don’t want to be found out. What would Joseph McCarthy do to me? If I were found out, like they with Jews and Communists, it would be a disaster.

      Mar 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kyle
      Kyle

      Just kidding!

      This is a great idea, and I can’t wait for GLBT people to be represented on the Census. It will happen one day, whether the gay and straight haters like it or not.

      Mar 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Shannon1981
      Shannon1981

      @Kyle: Why are you ashamed?

      Mar 16, 2012 at 9:29 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • trevor bartlet
      trevor bartlet

      1933 – Jews were forced to register.

      Mar 17, 2012 at 1:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Nick
      Nick

      On the application for admission to the University of Victoria, I was asked if I belonged to any sexual minority group. My answer was “yes.” I graduated from that university last year in April.

      I think sexual orientation and gender identity do matter as far as justices go just like race, sex, and class matter. A person who comes from a position of privilege has more difficulty deciding what is fair, which is why we need to know who the minority judges are so that we can balance out the courts.

      Mar 17, 2012 at 7:23 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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