Trans­gen­der stu­dent law faces un­cer­tain fu­ture

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY CH­ERYL WETZSTEIN

A first-of-its-kind Cal­i­for­nia law on trans­gen­der stu­dents took ef­fect last week, but its au­thor­ity could end this week if state of­fi­cials find that enough reg­is­tered vot­ers want to chal­lenge it in Novem­ber.

State of­fi­cials are sched­uled to re­port Jan. 8 whether they have re­ceived enough valid sig­na­tures to put the law, AB 1266, up for a pub­lic vote. If they have enough, the law will be stayed.

A coali­tion called Pri­vacy for All Stu­dents gath­ered some 620,000 sig­na­tures in 90 days. About 505,000 valid sig­na­tures are needed to put AB 1266 be­fore vot­ers in Novem­ber.

Mean­while, a sep­a­rate law­suit con­tests the va­lid­ity of more than 5,000 of those sig­na­tures; a court hear­ing was sched­uled for Fri­day.

AB 1266, en­acted in Au­gust, is in­tended to per­mit trans­gen­der stu­dents to choose by them­selves which bath­rooms and locker rooms they will use, and which sports teams they will join.

Cal­i­for­nia schools are al­ready re­quired not to dis­crim­i­nate against trans­gen­der stu­dents, and they cur­rently work with stu­dents and their fam­i­lies to ad­dress per­ti­nent is­sues. How­ever, gay-rights groups and some trans­gen­der stu­dents said the old pol­icy was not sen­si­tive enough.

“I’ve been sys­tem­at­i­cally placed in a [sports] class with all girls … and my school

Cal­i­for­nia schools are al­ready re­quired not to dis­crim­i­nate against trans­gen­der stu­dents, and they cur­rently work with stu­dents and their fam­i­lies to ad­dress per­ti­nent is­sues. How­ever, gay-rights groups and some trans­gen­der stu­dents said the old pol­icy

was not sen­si­tive enough.

was un­will­ing to change my sched­ule,” Ash­ton Lee, a bi­o­log­i­cal fe­male liv­ing as a trans­gen­der male, told a June hear­ing be­fore a Cal­i­for­nia Se­nate com­mit­tee.

It is “dev­as­tat­ing for my school to deny my iden­tity” and “make me live as some­one I’m not,” the 16-year-old said, adding that “the many other trans­gen­dered youth in Cal­i­for­nia need the School Suc­cess and Op­por­tu­nity Act” as well.

Other Cal­i­for­ni­ans, in­clud­ing par­ents of school­child­ren, said the new law — dubbed the “coed bath­room bill” — is ou­tra­geous be­cause it would force stu­dents to share pri­vate fa­cil­i­ties with chil­dren of the op­po­site sex.

Last week, the Cal­i­for­nia sec­re­tary of state’s of­fice said AB 1266 would go into ef­fect as planned on New Year’s Day. If on Jan. 8, there aren’t enough valid sig­na­tures in the sam­pling to ad­vance the ref­er­en­dum, AB 1266 will re­main in ef­fect. If enough sig­na­tures are found to be valid, AB 1266 will be im­me­di­ately stayed while the ref­er­en­dum process con­tin­ues.

Kevin Snider, chief coun­sel for Pa­cific Jus­tice In­sti­tute, said last week that while ref­er­en­dum sup­port­ers are con­fi­dent they have enough sig­na­tures to get the mea­sure on the bal­lot, a sub­sidiary fight is brew­ing over the state’s re­fusal to ac­cept sig­na­tures on a dead­line tech­ni­cal­ity.

The skir­mish in­volves Mr. Snider and at­tor­neys with the firm Sweeney, Greene and Roberts and 5,000 sig­na­tures from Tu­lare and Mono coun­ties, which Sec­re­tary of State De­bra Bowen’s of­fice has de­clined to ac­cept.

A hear­ing on the mat­ter was sched­uled for Jan. 3 be­fore Sacra­mento Su­pe­rior Court Judge Allen H. Sum­ner.

Nu­mer­i­cally, th­ese 5,000 sig­na­tures are “not a make or break” for the over­all ref­er­en­dum, said Mr. Snider. “But it’s a mat­ter of prin­ci­ple that each voter’s opin­ion counts and they shouldn’t be dis­en­fran­chised.”

The law­suit names Ms. Bowen, Mono County Regis­trar of Vot­ers Lynda Roberts, Tu­lare County Regis­trar of Vot­ers Rita Woodard and as many as 100 un­named per­sons as de­fen­dants. The Cal­i­for­nia at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice is named as their le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

Pe­ti­tioner Gina Glea­son said in the law­suit that the dead­line to file sig­na­tures was Nov. 10, which was a Sun­day over the Vet­er­ans Day hol­i­day weekend.

In Tu­lare County, the sig­na­tures were sent to Fed­eral Ex­press on Nov. 7, marked for “next day de­liv­ery” to Ms. Woodard’s of­fice. The courier ar­rived around 3 p.m. on Nov. 8, a Fri­day, and found the of­fice closed.

The courier went to the Tu­lare County mail­room and found an em­ployee still at work, but that per­son “re­fused to ac­cept de­liv­ery of the ref­er­en­dum pe­ti­tion sec­tions and told the Fed­eral Ex­press courier to re­turn” on Tues­day, af­ter the hol­i­day, the law­suit said. A Fed­eral Ex­press courier did so, and the pe­ti­tions were ac­cepted and signed for Nov. 12.

In Mono County, a courier for On-Trac De­liv­ery found no one in the of­fice on Nov. 9, a Satur­day, and placed “the pack­age in the des­ig­nated mail slot” at Ms. Roberts’ of­fice.

Ms. Glea­son’s law­suit said both coun­ties promptly sub­mit­ted their tal­lies of “raw sig­na­tures” to Ms. Bowen’s of­fice, but the sec­re­tary of state re­fused to ac­cept them, say­ing they were not “filed” when they were de­liv­ered to the county of­fices.

Ms. Bowen’s of­fice has adopted a “strained read­ing” of the law, and is in­fring­ing on the con­sti­tu­tional rights of Ms. Glea­son and the vot­ers in two coun­ties, said the law­suit, which asks the court to di­rect Ms. Bowen to ac­cept the coun­ties’ sig­na­tures and pay court costs.

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