John M. Becker

BREAKING: California Anti-Trans Ballot Initiative Fails

Filed By John M. Becker | February 24, 2014 8:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: AB 1266, California, equal access, referendum, transgender rights, transgender students

victory-ab1266.jpgThe Associated Press is now reporting that the effort to repeal California's landmark School Success and Opportunity Act, which requires that California schools respect the gender identity of all students and allows trans students equal access to all school activities and facilities, has failed to qualify for a Prop 8-style voter referendum in November.

The referendum effort was spearheaded by the National Organization for Marriage and by Frank Schubert, the architect of marriage discrimination ballot initiatives across the country.

Proponents of anti-trans discrimination gathered a total of 619,387 signatures in their quest to put a repeal vote on the ballot. They needed 504,760 to be valid in order to qualify, but they missed the mark by more than 17,000 signatures. A full check found that only 487,484 were valid.

If referendum proponents challenge the count in court, as they've pledged to do, they'd have to somehow win back about 13% of the rejected signatures.

Equality California's John O'Connor reacts via press release:

The law went into effect on January 1, giving the guidance schools need to make sure all students, including those who are transgender, have the opportunity to do well in school and graduate. The law was modeled on policies and practices that are already working well in schools across the state, and helps educators so they can work with students and families on a case-by-case basis.

The law helps students like Zoey, a 12-year-old transgender girl from the Los Angeles area who transferred out of her school after its administrators refused to treat her like a girl or allow her to use the girls' restroom. Her mom, Ofelia, says that the law makes it easier for her daughter to go to school and be herself. "I love my daughter and want the same things for her that other parents want for their children," she said. "I want what's best for her, for her to be happy, and for her to be able to do well in school. No one wants to see any kid singled out and excluded from school because of who they are."

Oakland's Redwood Heights School is one California school with policies already in place that give transgender kids fair chances. Like other schools with similar policies across the state, their approach has been successful since it was set up five years ago. Redwood Heights Principal Sara Stone told me, "We want our students to know that when they walk onto this campus, they are welcomed for who they are. Every educator I know went into the education field because they truly care about young people and making sure they have everything they need to be happy."

We had a broad and diverse coalition with us, including the Transgender Law Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights, ACLU of California, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Gender Spectrum, LGBT organizations, racial justice organizations, statewide teacher and parent organizations and many others committed to ensuring that all kids have the opportunity to do well in school and graduate.

Masen Davis, the executive director of Transgender Law Center, summed it up nicely: "This law gives schools the guidelines and flexibility to create an environment where all kids have the opportunity to learn. This law is about doing what's best for all students -- that's why it's supported by school boards, teachers and the PTA."

I was proud to see such a diverse community working on behalf of such wonderful young people and their families. Not just students, but all of us can breathe a little easier with the future of AB 1266 secured.

This is truly great news for all California students.

UPDATE: Statements from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Human Rights Campaign are after the jump.

NCTE, via press release:

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) applauds the failure of the referendum effort but remains vigilant of legal challenges to the signature count. In response to this developing news, NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling issued the following statement:

"We are very happy with today's outcome upholding the majority of Californians' belief that transgender students deserve a fair shot at doing well in school. School administrators and teachers in California had already been making the appropriate adjustments to achieve that even before this law took effect. And our view, along with the views of many parents, administrators and teachers in California, is that transgender kids should have the same education as all our kids. Doing that means making the right tweaks in school programs and functions so that transgender students can be who they are in schools without fear or limitation. NCTE celebrates this important step and we'll closely monitor legal challenges to the vote count as they develop."

HRC, via press release:

Today it was announced that a coalition seeking to put California's recently-passed School Success and Opportunity Act up for referendum failed to collect the signatures required to qualify the matter for the November 2014 ballot.

"The forces of discrimination tried to go after California's LGBT young people, and it's a sign of our progress that they fell short of their goal," said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin. "Yet unfortunately there are groups out there that are actively working to make the lives of LGBT youth harder. This law does nothing more than safeguard transgender students from being excluded and ensures all students are provided the same opportunities - regardless of gender identity."

After a randomized spot-check conducted last month, the anti-LGBT campaign enough signatures were valid to trigger a full-count of all of the signatures acquired in the 58 counties. The state requires 504,760 valid signatures in order to put the referendum on the November ballot. However, after a full-count of all signatures it was concluded that they had failed to gather enough to successfully put the issue up for referendum.

HRC will continue to stand with our partners in California working against the vitriol behind this effort.

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