By Parker Marie Molloy
Originally published on Advocate.com January 08 2014 1:16 PM ET
The effort to repeal, through a ballot initiative, a bill that affords certain rights to transgender students is moving forward, with every signature turned in by repeal proponents to be checked by February 24.
The School Success and Opportunity Act allows students to participate in sex-segregated accommodations, classes, and extracurricular activities on the basis of their gender identity. It was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in August.
The law immediately spurred a coalition of anti-LGBT groups, calling itself Privacy for All Students and including the Pacific Justice Institute, the National Organization for Marriage, and others, to begin the process of collecting signatures that would put a repeal measure on the November 2014 ballot. The coalition had 90 days to collect the more than 500,000 valid signatures needed to place the law up for a vote. It turned in nearly 620,000 signatures.
Since the deadline for turning in signatures this past November, the office of California’s secretary of state has been performing a spot-check to determine the validity rate. With the number turned in, the average validity rate needed to qualify for the ballot stands at 81.5%. Were the spot-check to yield a rate higher than that figure, the law would be suspended until after the ballot initiative this coming November.
Los Angeles County, the final county being put through the spot-check process, came in with a validity rate of 77.8%, bringing the overall state rate to 77.93%. While this wasn’t a high enough rate to suspend the law and put the measure on the ballot, this did meet the threshold needed to launch a new verification process, this time checking each of the 619,241 signatures received. In the meantime, the law will remain in effect.
“Repeal of AB1266 is a mean-spirited effort by groups determined to undermine any measure of LGBT protections,” Human Rights Campaign director of communications Michael Cole-Schwartz told The Advocate. Schwartz went on to note that HRC is monitoring the process, though he believes it would be “premature to comment on plans” prior to the completion of the signature verification process.
Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, provided the following statement to The Advocate:
Transgender Law Center is a part of a strong coalition including other legal groups such as National Center for Lesbian Rights and American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. We're prepared to do everything possible to support the School Success and Opportunity Act so that every child has a fair opportunity to succeed at school. For now, we're joining with students and their friends and families in celebrating because today every student in California can wake up knowing they can go to school and participate in sports and classes as their authentic selves.
No matter what happens in this process what is important to know is that all kids at school, including transgender kids, should be given a fair chance to participate and succeed. That's why we'll be doing everything we can to help elevate the stories of transgender students and their families. Many transgender students like Kane Atticus Tajnai in San Jose, who avoided using the restroom all day long and who was afraid to be himself at school, now have the support of their schools and are able to confidently participate at school. Ashton Lee, a student in Manteca, was placed in girls' physical education class and mistakenly treated like a girl at school — even though he lives every moment of his life as a boy. The passage of AB 1266 — School Success and Opportunity Act — gave Ashton and his loving mom Catherine the confidence they needed to work with the school to change their policies so all students could be themselves. These are just a few of the success stories we're already seeing as schools across the state begin to ensure all their students are able to fully participate in sports and classes that match their genuinely-held gender identity.
Thanks to the guidance provided by the School Success and Opportunity Act, Sacramento, Berkeley, and San Diego have updated their district policies. And Los Angeles Unified District has had similar policies in place for a decade. Regardless of any laws, teachers, counselors, and school administrators know it's in the best interest of all their students to ensure transgender youth are able to fully participate at school.
It is important to remember that this law is not about co-ed bathrooms. This is about making sure all students have a fair opportunity participate and succeed in school.
The deadline for completion of the full check of all 619,241 signatures is February 24.