Suit Filed Over Trans Student Law
Anti-gay activists are suing state officials over a new state law designed to protect transgender students.
The Privacy for All Students coalition has been working to repeal Assembly Bill 1266 for months. The law is set to go into effect January 1. Officials are currently performing random sample verification of the signatures, and that process will be completed by January 8.
The anti-gay activists must ultimately reach 504,760 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. If they reach 110 percent of that by January 8, or 555,237 signatures, the referendum qualifies, and the new law will be suspended until November. Otherwise, if the coalition just reaches 95 percent of the lower number, a full count of the signatures will be ordered, and the law will not be suspended until the referendum qualifies.
If the random samples determine the coalition only hits 95 percent, or 479,522 signatures, then the referendum won’t qualify. The coalition submitted more than 600,000 petition signatures to elections officials last month.
AB 1266 aims to make sure that transgender youth can fully participate in all school activities, sports teams, programs, and facilities that match their gender identity. Gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) authored the bill, which Governor Jerry Brown signed into law in August.
Several other LGBT-related laws, such as those meant to help homeless youth and people living with AIDS, are also set to go into effect next week, and legislators and activists are working to craft more gay bills for 2014.
However, none of the proposals has drawn as much attention as the law anti-gay activists call "the co-ed bathroom law," working to scare voters with notions that horny grade school boys will be walking into girls’ bathrooms and assaulting students.
In a Thursday, December 19 news release, the day Privacy for All Students filed its lawsuit, the coalition claimed "the secretary of state is unfairly refusing to count any of the signatures presented to Tulare or Mono counties in support of a referendum to overturn" AB 1266. (Those counties’ registrars of voters are also defendants in the suit.)
Nicole Winger, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state, wasn’t available Friday to comment on the coalition’s lawsuit.
People on both sides say it’s too early to predict what the random counts will show. Validity rates from three of the state’s largest counties - Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and San Diego - weren’t available as of last week.
In a Friday, December 20 interview, Frank Schubert, the Privacy for All Students campaign manager, said the coalition is "fighting for every signature" because the final count "is going to be very close."
Schubert, who was the mastermind behind California’s now-defunct Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban, said, "The main principle is people’s signatures should be counted."
John O’Connor is executive director of Equality California, one of the main supporters of AB 1266. In an interview Thursday before Privacy for All Students announced its lawsuit, O’Connor said, "It’s so hard to say" what the outcome of the random counts will be.
"We’re just not going to know until January 8," he said.
If the anti-gay coalition succeeds and the law is suspended, it will be placed on hold until November, said Schubert. His group will then begin arranging its campaign "and figuring out how we’re going to approach getting the grassroots organized throughout the state," as well as establishing a fundraising program "to raise the resources necessary to communicate with people," said Schubert.
He said he didn’t yet know how much they’d need, but it would be "several million dollars for sure." He estimated his group has raised $500,000 to $600,000 "to get to this point."
"We’ll have an integrated fundraising campaign of major donors, direct mail, email communication, and direct solicitation," said Schubert. He declined to say what he’s being paid for his work, but it’s "not much at all." The figure couldn’t immediately be determined from data that’s been provided to the secretary of state.
Nothing Against Trans Students
Asked why he’s working so strenuously against transgender students, Schubert said he’s not. He said he’s doing the work "because I think this bill is very bad law" and "completely unnecessary." The state "already has many laws on the books to protect transgender students," he said.
"I don’t have anything against transgender students," Schubert said. However, he said, the law "bullies the 99.9 percent of the students who are not transgender and is a cruel joke to those that are transgender."
"I can’t imagine telling a student who’s gender-confused ... that somehow his problems are going to go away if he just uses the girls’ locker room. It’s just ridiculous," he said.
Schubert said AB 1266 "forces open all school showers, locker rooms, bathrooms, and changing areas to anyone’s claim of gender identity, and there’s no attempt to balance the interests of students who might be bothered by having to share the most intimate school facilities [with] someone of the opposite biological sex."
It may be hard for many people to imagine a boy pretending to be transgender and subjecting himself to the issues that could come with that just to peek inside the girls’ bathroom, but Schubert said, "Oh, I think we’ll have a lot of examples of it." He predicted "some will prey on kids" and others will use it "as a practical joke."
Disputes with Counties