(CNSNews.com) - The California Assembly has passed a bill intended to discourage candidates from using "anti-gay rhetoric" in their political campaigns.
The bill adds "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to California's Code of Fair Campaign Practices -- an "anti-discrimination" pledge that is given to every candidate for public office.
Signing the pledge is voluntary, but failure to sign it could prove difficult for candidates who might risk being judged "unfair."
Critics call the bill an effort to muzzle any politician who refuses to support the homosexual agenda.
But homosexual activists say its an effort to stamp out prejudice: "This bill red flags candidates and campaign committees to think twice before using anti-gay rhetoric as a campaign tactic," said Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California, the group that helped write the bill.
"We thank Assembly Speaker pro Tem Yee for promoting an equal playing field and helping to end the misinformation and anti-gay bigotry that taints our elections cycle and divides voters.
According to Equality California, "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."
Kors said the bill should prompt candidates to be "thoughtful and culturally sensitive to the constituencies they hope to represent."
Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) said passage of AB 866 moves California "one step closer to ending anti-gay rhetoric in political campaigns.
"Candidates should not discriminate and victimize the LGBT community for political purposes, and fostering campaigns that create fear and intimidation only incite a potentially dangerous situation for the LGBT community," Yee said in a press release.
After passing the California State Assembly Monday on a 47-27 vote, AB 866 now heads to the State Senate.
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