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State News

Governor Signs Transgender Student Rights Bill
Posted by Alex Mazariegos on Aug 19, 2013 - 2:34:56 PM

SACRAMENTO—Assembly Bill 1266, the School Success and Opportunity Act, has been signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on August 12, in a move that drew much praise and ire from both sides of the debate.


AB 1266, introduced in February 2013 by Assembly Member Tom Ammiano and co-authored by Senators Mark Leno and Ricardo Lara, seeks to augment existing laws that prohibit public schools from discriminating based on gender identity. The act ensures that public schools permit students to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities. Furthermore, schools will be required to allow students to use facilities accordant with his or her gender identity, regardless of the gender listed on school records.
Assembly Member Tom Ammiano


Joining Massachusetts, Connecticut, Washington and Colorado, the state has enacted a legislative policy catered to protect transgender students, assuring coverage for pupils from K-12. California, however, is the first to place a statewide law in effect in regards to the issue, though some school districts in the state, including LAUSD, already have laws safeguarding transgender students from discrimination.


Proponents of AB 1266 were quick to praise Governor Brown's action and LGBT activists, students and non-students, remained at the forefront of the commendations, with some bringing forward personal anecdotes in support of their cause.


“On behalf of Transgender Law Center and the many youth and families we serve, I extend our deepest gratitude to the Governor, Assembly and Senate for the passage and signing of this bill,” said Masen Davis, executive director of Transgender Law Center. “Now, every transgender student in California will be able to get up in the morning knowing that when they go to school as their authentic self they will have the same fair chance at success as their classmates.”


Through the months-long deliberation, advocates continually stressed the importance of reducing discrimination based upon unresolved contentions on transgender student rights, which they say is addressed by the newly signed law. The bill drew support from a coalition of organizations, including Transgender Law Center, Equality California, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Gender Spectrum, ACLU of California, statewide teacher and parents’ organizations, and numerous other LGBT and ally organizations.


“Student success depends on safe and supportive environments, and AB1266 ensures that our transgender youth are given the opportunities they need to thrive,” said John O’Connor, executive director of Equality California. “We commend Governor Brown for standing up for transgender equality, as well as the elected officials, advocates and transgender youth who have demonstrated inspirational leadership to ensure this bill’s passage.”
On July 31, 16-year-old Ashton Lee presented a petition in support of the bill to the governor.


The governor's decision, however, also attracted criticism. Opponents of the bill argued that AB 1266 disregards the majority of students who are not the intended beneficiaries and numerous conservative organizations took issue with what they allege is an attack on normative gender identities.


“We know time and again the fluidity of those who decide to change their sex and then change it back,” said Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman and founder of the Traditional Values Coalition, in a public statement. “Gender identity by the admission of its own proponents changes frequently, even day by day, with interests that fluctuate depending on time and circumstance. Their DNA is far more consistent, and individuals will always be male or female.”


Rev. Sheldon further stated that “there was no public demand for this bill.”


Those in opposition claimed the law permits a clear-cut disintegration on how students gender identify, and a few others stated that the acts violates the rights of a majority of students. The debate, they argue, lies on whether victimization is regulated to what the law considers as legitimate.


"We at Pacific Justice Institute stand ready and willing to defend anyone who will be victimized as a result of this new law,” said Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute. “That includes someone whose privacy rights are violated in the bathroom, in the locker room, in the showers, or someone who is prevented from playing on a sports team because someone from the opposite gender took their place."


Pacific Justice Institute, along with other opponents of the bill plan to challenge the law in court. A few activists are already attempting to overturn the assembly bill by qualifying it for the November 2014 ballot.


The bill passed the California State Senate in July, and it was delivered to the Governor on August 1, according to the California Legislative Information registry. Prior to signing it, Governor Brown had a little less than two weeks to decide on its outcome. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2014.


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