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State Senate approves bill banning language discrimination

Alarmed that a professional golf association proposed to exclude competitors who don’t speak English, the state Senate acted today to prohibit businesses in California from discriminating against customers, including refusing them service, based on the language they use.

The Ladies Professional Golf Assn. last year backed down from a policy that would have suspended golfers who do not speak adequate English on the premise that language fluency in speeches and media interviews was critical to the sport's promotion efforts.

The golfers were considered "patrons" of the LPGA, not employees.

State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) said the policy raised an issue that required changes to state civil rights laws that already protect employees from discrimination based on language.

"I don’t understand the connection between speaking English and playing golf," Yee said on the Senate floor. "This is really about protecting our ability to speak the language that we wish."

Yee recalled as a young boy going to a San Francisco hardware store with an uncle who was mistreated because of his lack of proficiency in English.

SB 242, which now goes to the Assembly, was approved on a 21-15 vote, with Republican lawmakers opposed based on concern it would open businesses up to a rash of civil rights lawsuits if customers felt they did not get good service.

Yee noted the bill protects English speakers as well from being discriminated against by non-English-speaking business owners. The bill includes an exemption that says firms can require a specific language to be spoken if it is justified by a "business necessity," such as clear communications for safety, and that notification is provided as to when and where the language restriction is to be observed.

The bill drew concerns from U.S. English, a group that promotes English-only policies. Rob Toonkel, a spokesman for the group, said it makes good sense for businesses to treat customers well.

"Where we have concern is putting language on par with unchangeable characteristics," Toonkel said. "You can’t change your gender. You can’t change your disability. You can change the language you speak. You can learn to say, 'I’d like a hamburger.' "

-- Patrick McGreevy

Comments () | Archives (218)

Only in America are foreigners allowed to come in and set up parasitic subcultures and never learn the language. English proficiency should be a citizenship requirement. Without a common language there is no "melting pot."

They might as well call it the "Death to America" bill. I'm personally immigrant. Almost everyone is in their background, but we live in an English speaking country and its necessary to be able to communicate. Businesses will be penalized for not supporting those speaking any obscure language. We already have laws that protect people from criminal mistreatment. This is really about forcing others to conform to one's unwillingness to learn the local language. This bill is racist, and worse yet it promotes severe social instability by legally enabling immigrants to refuse to integrate.

Last time I checked, English was the primary language in the US. If people want to immigrate to the US, live in our wonderful country, take adantage of our freedoms, benefits, resources, prosperity, etc, the least they can do is learn the language. If English is the primary language here and a US business owner only speaks English how can he be discrimmating against a potential customer or client who he can't even understand because they don't speak our language. Makes it pretty hard to communicate and do business together. And if it's in regards to a foreigner visiting the US, well, they're just that, a guest in a country who's residents speak a different language from their own - how can that issue possibly be considered discrimmatory? When I've been abroad and struggled with the language of the country I'm in, NEVER have I felt I've been discrimminated against because I didn't speak THEIR language. For goodness sakes, I'm in their country. To propose a state bill re: this is absurd. Wouldn't you think our state senate's time would be better spent dealing with all the financiall issues concerning our state instead of this issue. I can't believe it all began over golf competitors. Where are our priorities? I sure hope it doesn't pass.

This is pretty ridiculous, and I am an immigrant! Will businesses be required to speak all languages that are spoken in the US? I am sure nobody in their right mind (except politicians) expects to be understood in any language. Good customer service cannot be mandated - and good businesses treat everybody well, thus gaining return business.

This is more multiculturalism foisted on the populace by the incompetent "leaders" in Sacramento. Multiculturalism undermines the foundations of a functioning society including maintaining a common language. The bill is another ineffective overreaction by government to fix a problem that doesn't exist.

I agree, we have to understand that it is in our best interest to promote a common language. One should be proficient in English to become a US citizen. If there is no will to implement that type of law then at least lets NOT pass laws that make it easier for someone to NOT assimilate into American culture by getting by without having to understand or speak basic English. It is only natural that one will be treated differently if there is a language/ communication barrier. Why try to legislate out the natural incentives to speak and learn English in this country? Cultural barriers and a lack of understanding only leads to conflict.

The whole legislature should be thrown out for spending their time with petty garbage like this. What about the excessive state spending? That is the most pressing issue.

California's legislature should go back to being a part-time pursuit since they have time to waste on this crud.

If you live in the US, you learn English. Plain and simple. If you want to continue to use your native lanugage or any other language than English, thats totally fine, but you have to remember this is an ENGLISH speaking country, and the rest of us should not be expected to cator to you by learning other languages. YOU came HERE, so you learn English. I have worked in a store where many people who came in spoke little to no english. Well, problem being, I spoke little to no Spanish, Korean, etc. And while some of these people just made an effort to let me know what they wanted, some of them were littlerally ANGRY that I had DARED not to learn their language. Last I checked, I had not moved to Mexico, Spain, or Korea, or any other country. We speak English, if you live here, you should too.

LOL, Is it just me, or do businesses discriminate against individuals that are not bilingual.... How can you protect one without protecting the other? either leave it to the right of the servicing party. Or enforce the law on everyone that discriminates........................

The comments reflect a profound misunderstanding of what this bill is trying to accomplish. It would not force businesses to learn other languages, reject a common culture and/or language, etc. It would simply prevent them from discriminating based on language alone and has an exception for business necessity. America's default language is English and anyone who wants to excel in education or business will learn it. I don't understand the opposition to multiculturalism or immigrant communities maintaining their languages (which one person shockingly called subversive subcultures). This is America, folks. We're a national melting pot, not a cohesive ethnicity. It's particularly shocking that people would oppose such multiculturalism in California, which is inextricably tied to its Mexican and Spanish background and has had a strong Pacific Rim influence since it's statehood. You try to stamp out Spanish and Chinese, in particular, and you're stamping out major chapters of California history. Recall that people can change religions, perhaps easier than they can change languages; should we allow the country clubs to ban Jews or Catholics as they used to? I'm certainly not in favor of that.

This appears to be foolish pandering, but I can't figure to whom they are pandering. Its a neccessity for a effecive society to have a common language. I do feel one of our strengths as a country is to have a degree of mulitculturalism, but this is just too much.

Also, Yee just sounds like a crybaby who still as an adult can't let go of some minor afront his father suffered years ago. Just silliness. I'm writing my representativ to see how they voted and reprimand them if they voted for this.

"When I've been abroad and struggled with the language of the country I'm in, NEVER have I felt I've been discrimminated against because I didn't speak THEIR language"

I'm guessing you've never been to Paris.

The legislature is doing the right thing providing leadership on this issue. English was not the first language spoken in America and it has never been the only one. Arguing that language discrimination is not a problem is myopic and self serving. Stop expecting those with more barriers than you do to all the extra work in making a multicultural society work. English-only advocates are just being lazy.

If you live in USA, you MUST speak ENGLISH as your primary language.

If you live in Germany, you MUST speak GERMAN as your primary language.

If you live in France, you MUST speak FRENCH as your primary langauage.

If you are from Mexico and Central America, and move to USA, you MUST learn to speak ENGLISH and speak it as your primary language! If you DON'T want to speak ENGLISH, then you need to go back to your former country!

Will this be the way the USA is changed by multicultural
advocates from a Melting Pot into the Tower of Babel
that Arthur Schelesinger Jr. warned about in his book
The Disuniting of America??

I'm a Filipino and I speak English and I also expect everyone who resides in this country to learn it also. David's comment is correct if you don't want to put effort in learning the language then I suggest go back to the country you came from. Equality means what its supposed to means. I am not going to take time to learn chinese or korean so that I can communicate with them (I would like to try) instead they should learn how to speak our language (English) or at least try so that I can provide for them better assistance or what ever else it is they need.

So every business here in CA should be required to give service to someone regardless of what language they are using? So employers need someone to translate every language out there just to operate? Ridiculous.

Not only should you learn to speak english if you come to america, you should be tested on it periodically.

I firmly believe that the only thing that should be written in another language in the United States is where to \go to learn to speak and read english.

Why do I now have to press 1 for english rather than it being the natural choice when i call the DMV?

If you want to live here, make money here, etc. - learn the language. It's just common sense, which this bill and its' sponsor is severely lacking.

English is now the mandated international language of aviation. We should ban language discrimination and have pilots and control tower personnel speak whatever language they're familiar with. Right?

I just read in the paper that of the millions of foreigners in our country, over 50% are here illegally. And we have to cater to them too??!! I'm not against being kind, but this demand regarding language is absurd. I'm an American living abroad, and EVERYONE here wants to learn English. How much more should people who plan to STAY in an English-speaking country. Talk about wanting all the benefits with minimum effort!!
Oh puleeeease!

Wow, dznts says it all! Very well expressed, friend!!

Our legislators in CA are worthless panders for votes. My Grandparents came here and learned English. Learn the language of the country in a reasonable time, we will help you, or go home.

Allegations of theft and prostitution
On December 19, 1992 Per County of Hawaii Police Lt. Ed Tanaka caught Leland Yee as he walked out of the KTA Superstore in Kona's Keauhow Shopping Village with a small bottle of "Tropical Blend Tan Magnifier oil" in his front short pocket.[5] He was subsequently stopped by a store security officer who summoned the local police. Yee was booked on suspicion of petty misdemeanor shoplifting but the case was closed in 1993 without prejudice. However, the case was publicized by the San Francisco Chronicle which published Yee's mug shot.

Yee has also been pulled over by SFPD three times under the suspicion that he was cruising for prostitutes in the Mission District of San Francisco. All three times, he was questioned by police and let go with no charges filed.[6]

So, if I understand this correctly, I could create a new language that only consists of screams, the duration of which represents different words (maybe something like Morse code, but instead of dots and dashes, screams and yelps) and I could then sue a business for not understanding me? Is there anything that states how a language is defined (the text of the bill states "any language", not any recognized language)? Is there anything that states if someone CAN speak English/in a common language that they must use that instead (i..e you can't pretend that you only speak Portuguese if you also speak English?)

In the past immigrants seemed to take pride in integrating themselves into the American culture. All of my grandparents and great grandparents spoke both their native languages AND English. With jobs like working in coal mines, they weren't extremely educated, but it was important to them. There are countless ways they still maintained their own culture however, with different traditions and foods for example. Now integration into the American culture seems to revolve around desires to consume and get money and this bill seems to emphasize that idea. We always want to make sure people can consume things, no matter what language they speak.

This country has always been the land of equal opportunity, not equal results.

If you want equal results for everybody, go to Cuba.

California is reaping the results of years of well-intended economically and socially destructive policies.

For those of you in CA who see the world clearly, good luck, and you're always welcome in other more sensible parts of the country :)

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