California governor vetoes bill aimed at prohibiting religious employers from firing workers who seek abortions

FILE PHOTO: California Governor Jerry Brown attends the International Forum on Electric Vehicle Pilot Cities and Industrial Development in Beijing, China June 6, 2017. | Reuters/Thomas Peter/File Photo

California Gov. Jerry Brown has struck down a legislation that would have prohibited religious workers from disciplining or firing employees who seek abortions, use birth control or make other reproductive health decisions they disagree with.

Assembly Bill 569, which was introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego), would have prohibited religious employers from requiring their employees to sign a code of conduct that aligns with what the Bible says about abortion, contraception, and sex outside of marriage.

The introduction of the measure follows the case of Teri James, who was allegedly fired from her job at San Diego Christian College in 2012 for getting pregnant out of wedlock.

Proponents of the bill, such as co-sponsor NARAL Pro-Choice California, contended that women should not be judged for their private health choices. But Catholic and other religious organizations argued that it would infringe upon their freedom to practice their faith as they choose.

Business groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce, also opposed the measure out of concern that it would open another avenue of potential litigation.

The bill was passed by the California legislature earlier this year, but it was vetoed by Brown on Sunday. In a memo sent back to the legislation, the staunchly pro-choice governor explained that he felt the measure was too overreaching.

"The California Fair Employment and Housing Act has long banned such adverse actions, except for religious institutions," Brown wrote, according to The Christian Post.

"I believe these types of claims should remain within the jurisdiction of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. For this reason, I am returning AB 569 without my signature," he continued.

The Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative legal defense organization, indicated that it was prepared to file several lawsuits had the governor signed the bill into law.

"We are relieved that Gov. Brown chose not to extend choking state prohibitions into sacrosanct areas of religious life and ministry," Brad Dacus, the president of the institute said. "It is essential that churches, ministries, and religious schools continue to have the freedom to expect employees to practice what is preached," he added.

Dacus noted that a majority of California lawmakers had voted in favor of the bill and warned that the measure could be revived, especially when a new governor is elected.

NARAL Pro-Choice California State Director Amy Everitt denounced Brown's decision to veto the bill, saying it was "a blow to Californians who deserve to make private reproductive health decisions without fear of losing their jobs."