Effort to repeal transgender student law fails to make ballot

The effort to repeal a new law allowing transgender students to use bathroom facilities and participate in sports teams consistent with their gender identity failed to qualify for the November ballot, the California Secretary of State said Monday.

Opponents of the law, led by Privacy for All Students, a Sacramento-based coalition of advocacy and religious groups, had submitted nearly 620,000 signatures to put a referendum on the ballot that would have overturned the law, Assembly Bill 1266, called the California School Success and Opportunity Act.

But Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office said the referendum garnered only 487,484 valid signatures, about 17,000 signatures below the 504,760 valid names it needed to put the issue before the voters. Privacy for All Students has the right to review the names rejected by the Secretary of State and challenge exclusions it believes are incorrect.

The law, which was introduced  by Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, took effect Jan. 1 at schools across the state. The law allows transgender students to join school sports teams and activities and to use bathrooms, locker rooms and other facilities consistent with a student’s gender identity, regardless of the gender listed on the student’s records.

Privacy for All Students maintains that the law violates the rights and privacy of students.

“This legislation invades the privacy of our children while they are in the most vulnerable areas of a school – showers, rest rooms and locker rooms,” the group said in a notice posted on its website. “The bill allows any student to use the facilities reserved for the opposite sex simply by asserting a vague ‘gender identity.’”

The Privacy for All Students campaign was led by Frank Schubert, national political director for the National Organization for Marriage which worked to pass Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriages. In January, the referendum campaign failed to qualify for the November ballot based on a random sampling of signatures and was required to go through the verification of a full count of signatures.

Supporters of the law were jubilant at the defeat of the referendum qualification effort.

“This law gives schools the guidelines and flexibility to create an environment where all kids have the opportunity to learn,” said Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, a San Francisco-based advocacy organization, in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. “This law is about doing what’s best for all students – that’s why it’s supported by school boards, teachers, and the PTA.”

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