A referendum to overturn a law allowing transgender students to use bathroom facilities consistent with their gender identity failed to qualify for the November ballot based on a random sampling of signatures and is now subject to a full count of signatures, the California Secretary of State’s office said Wednesday.
The law, known as the California School Success and Opportunity Act, took effect Jan. 1 and allows transgender students to participate in 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.
Opponents of the law submitted a “Referendum to Overturn Non-Discrimination Requirements for School Programs and Activities” in November 2013 with more than 620,000 signatures. To immediately qualify for the ballot by random sample, the secretary of state sets a high bar: 555,236 signatures must be projected to be valid, according to the secretary’s office.
But county election offices projected that only 482,582 of the signatures are valid, moving the referendum qualification process to the next step, a full count of the signatures. For the full count, which is due by Feb. 24, the state requires that 504,760 signatures be valid to put the referendum on the ballot.
According to the state filing, the referendum’s author is Gina Gleason of the Chino-based nonprofit organization Faith and Public Policy, which works to defend a biblical worldview; Gleason is listed in care of Karen England, co-chair of Privacy for All Students, a Sacramento-based coalition of advocacy and religious groups. Other supporters of the referendum include Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, a statewide group of attorneys that defends religious freedom and civil rights, who called the law “an egregious violation of the fundamental privacy rights of all students in California.”
“If an 8-year-old boy says one day that he feels he’s a girl, this law immediately mandates that he’s allowed to use the girls’ room,” Dacus said. “The legislation is very clear – all that is required is for the child to assert that at that time, they feel like the opposite gender. The child’s allowed to switch back and forth day after day.”
Under regulations put in place in 2013 by the California Interscholastic Federation in 2013, transgender students are free to participate in athletic events based on their gender identity – a boy who has established an identity as a girl playing on a girls’ basketball team, for instance. That protection would not change even if the law were repealed, legal experts said, and nor would a repeal of the law change policies that are in place in several school districts, including Los Angeles Unified and San Francisco Unified, that allow transgender students to participate in all aspects of school life according to their self-identified gender.
The number of transgender adults is estimated to be about 0.5 percent of the state’s population, and the percentage of transgender youth would be lower, said Ilona Turner, legal director of the Transgender Law Center, an Oakland-based organization that is involved in litigation across the country. The term transgender refers to those who identify with a gender that differs from their sex.
“In my experience, supporting transgender students based on their gender identity, including allowing them to use facilities or participate in activities, is just another way that schools work to ensure all students can be successful,” said Sara Stone, a principal at Oakland Unified School District, in a statement released by the San Francisco-based American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization. “This is not an issue that other students are bothered about, and is one that makes a tremendous difference for the transgender students we serve.”