Capitol Alert: Repeal of California transgender student rights bill fails

ccadelago@sacbee.comFebruary 24, 2014 

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, was the author of Assembly Bill 1266.

HECTOR AMEZCUA — hamezcua@sacbee.com

Efforts to overturn a law shielding transgender students stalled Monday, with advocates of the repeal failing to gather enough signatures to qualify for the statewide ballot.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced the referendum of Assembly Bill 1266 finished several thousand signatures short of the 504,760 valid names needed to go before voters.

The bill has become a flashpoint in the debate over supervising school facilities. Carried by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, it permits transgender public school students to join athletic teams and access facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identities instead of their sex.

Transgender individuals identify with a gender different from their sex at birth. Ammiano issued a lengthy statement saying one good thing that came from the "misguided" referendum effort was supporters were able educate people.

"It's important that we begin to understand what transgender students are going through. I wish it was just a matter of ignorance. The forces putting this referendum together included the people that make money off promoting hate and professional fear mongers, who took advantage of what other people didn't understand," Ammiano said.

"Although it's clear that California is moving in the direction of equality and respect, this does not mean the struggle is over ... The people who belittle the rights of transgender students should know their efforts encourage the bullies. It is their intolerance that allows the violence to continue, and that violence affects every child, not just transgender students. They should be ashamed."

Some school districts have already moved to accommodate their pupil. In December, Sacramento Unified School District approved a policy to extend new rights and protections to transgender students.

Meanwhile, repeal supporters contended that their collection of 619,381 signatures demonstrated the degree of opposition to a measure that opens sensitive areas to the "opposite sex."

The coalition called Privacy for All Students maintained the law makes other students uncomfortable and infringes on the will of public school parents. The campaign was led by Frank Schubert, who earlier helped run the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign.

The repeal effort has been marked by bursts of drama. Last month, it moved to the full signature count after county election officials determined it did not have enough valid signatures to succeed by random sample.

That came after Bowen declined to count more than 5,000 signatures from Tulare and Mono counties that came in two days after the Nov. 10 deadline. A judge in Sacramento ruled the late submission was appropriate because Nov. 10 fell on a Sunday and Nov. 11 was Veteran's Day.

Fewer than 50 referenda have qualified for the ballot in the last 100 years.

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