Right Wing Coalition Targeting Trans Youth Protections
Transgender students in California are facing what could be their final obstacle before being granted basic protections in the state’s public schools.
Late last month, opponents of a law that would make California the first state to mandate public schools provide equal access to all school activities, sports teams, programs and facilities for students who identity as transgender - slated to take effect Jan. 1, 2014 - turned in 614,317 petition signatures in hopes of putting the law before voters, roughly 100,000 more than the required minimum. With county registrars required to verify at least 95 percent of those signatures for a referendum to be conducted in November 2014, supporters of the landmark LGBT-rights law are expressing confidence the law will not have to face voters.
"Because often times many signatures are invalidated for various reasons, it is unknown whether the referendum will qualify," the Support All Students Coalition, a group of LGBT-rights organizations backing the law, said in a statement. "We are not surprised that the opposition was not able to acquire a comfortable margin to repeal a law that simply makes sure all students know they can have a fair chance to succeed at school."
In August, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the School Success and Opportunity Act into law after it was approved by California lawmakers. The legislation requires "a pupil be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records."
The new law is similar to statewide policies in Massachusetts and Colorado that require schools to respect students’ gender identity. A broad coalition backed the legislation, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, ACLU of California, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Equality California, Gender Spectrum and the Transgender Law Center.
According to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, existing California law already prohibits discrimination against transgender students, but Assembly Bill 1266 specifically calls upon public schools to respect the identity of transgender students in terms of school activities such as sports. With physical education credits a requirement for graduation, the National Center for Lesbian Rights notes that transgender students have been left without a support network in the past, which has negatively impacted their ability to graduate.
But while advocates have hailed the California law as a first of its kind in the nation, it has also galvanized a number of opponents who have voiced outrage at what they have dubbed the "co-ed bathroom law."
Among those backing a referendum of the law is the National Organization for Marriage, which has its roots in the fight against same-sex marriage in California. Although NOM by name restricts itself to the debate over same-sex marriage, the group has injected itself into the attempt to repeal the law. NOM’s national political director, Frank Schubert, penned a column for the website RedState in August blasting "the latest craze from the left concerning something they call ’gender identity.’"
"This is an example of what happens when politicians and activists push agenda politics, and where political correctness trumps objective reality," Schubert continued. "No matter what any politician or activist says, there are only two genders: male and female. Nature and chromosomes determine gender, not education bureaucrats, activists or politicians."
A month after Schubert’s column was published, NOM came out against the law and voiced its backing of the coalition opposing the law - Privacy for all Students - which Schubert is now leading.