By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com August 12 2013 3:53 PM ET
California governor Jerry Brown today signed into law a groundbreaking bill expanding antidiscrimination protections for transgender students in public elementary and secondary schools, mandating that schools respect the gender identity of trans students by allowing them equal access to the sports teams, programs, and facilities associated with their gender.
Assembly Bill 1266 is the first of its kind nationwide, and expands upon existing antidiscrimination protections to help schools implement policies that support and affirm trans students. It builds upon national momentum to respect trans students, including a ruling earlier this year from the Colorado Civil Rights Division determining that a trans first-grader must be allowed access to the girls' bathroom at her elementary school near Colorado Springs. California's new law will take effect January 1, according to the Bay Area Reporter.
"While many California school children are already protected by policies in some of our biggest school districts, other districts don't seem to understand that transgender students should have equal access to all programs and facilities," Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a gay Democrat from San Francisco who introduced the bill, told BAR. "The gender identity of these kids needs to be respected and they shouldn't have to sue to make it happen."
The bill passed both the state senate and assembly last month, despite opposition from right-wing and religious groups that claimed the legislation would allow boys to shower with girls and lead to students randomly using whatever bathroom they felt like on a given day.
Thanking Governor Brown and the openly gay state legislators who sponsored the bill, the executive director of the Transgender Law Center celebrated the bill's codification. "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," said Masen Davis in a press release.
Last month the federal Department of Justice ruled that a high school in Arcadia, Calif., must make male facilities available to a transgender student, including access to the men's bathroom, locker room, and participation on boys' sports teams. Earlier this month, a 16-year-old transgender high school junior delivered more than 6,000 signatures urging the governor to sign the bill, saying it would allow him to "be a regular boy at my school."