A bill to prohibit job discrimination against homosexuals was shelved Thursday by its author in the wake of an intense lobbying campaign by religious fundamentalists opposed to the measure and the specter of a veto by Gov. George Deukmejian.
Assemblyman Art Agnos (D-San Francisco) said he withdrew the bill from consideration because he realized he did not have the minimum seven votes necessary to get it out of the Assembly Labor Committee, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 8 to 5.
Agnos' bill was identical to one he sponsored last year, which Deukmejian vetoed. The veto followed three previous attempts, which had been killed in the Legislature, to add homosexuals to the list of people protected against discrimination.
In his veto message, the governor said there had been no "compelling show of need" for the bill.
Agnos, who has championed gay rights since taking office in 1977, blamed the setback on a heavy lobbying campaign by religious fundamentalists and their "calculated distortion" in linking the issue of job discrimination to the "tragic illness" of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
Potential Veto Noted
"Obviously, the specter of a gubernatorial veto doesn't help the atmosphere for a vote either," Agnos added.
The measure would have included homosexuals in a law that sets up classes of "protected" citizens for whom employment discrimination is outlawed.
That list prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, age, sex and marital status.
As he had after Deukmejian's veto last year, Agnos vowed to continue his efforts to enact such a law. In withdrawing the bill, Agnos used a parliamentary device that will allow the Legislature to reconsider it later in the session but would postpone the effective date of the bill, should it become law, until 1987.
According to legislative aides, opponents of the measure lobbied key lawmakers on the Labor Committee with daily phone calls and letters.
"We couldn't get any work done," said one aide who declined to be identified. "I guess the fact it got to the governor's desk last year brought them out of the woodwork."