CA ballot measure to restrict rights of trans youth won't be on Nov. ballot

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday May 28, 2024
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A ballot measure that would have restricted the rights of trans students failed to qualify for California's November ballot. Photo: Rick Gerharter
A ballot measure that would have restricted the rights of trans students failed to qualify for California's November ballot. Photo: Rick Gerharter

A ballot measure to restrict the rights of transgender youth won't appear on California's November ballot, according to the group that sponsored the measure. The news came ahead of a legislative hearing on a state bill that would ban the outing of transgender public school students.

As the Bay Area Reporter previously reported, Protect Kids California was gathering signatures for a ballot measure that would have banned trans minors from receiving gender-affirming care; banned trans girls from female competitive sports, locker rooms and bathrooms; and required public schools to disclose students' gender identities to parents if they say they are different than their sex at birth.

Protect Kids California had until May 28 to collect some 550,000 valid signatures in order to place the measure before state voters on the November 5 ballot. In a statement posted to Instagram, Protect Kids California stated it had fallen short. The group claimed to have "collected an impressive 400,000 signatures" from registered voters in every county of the Golden State, and to have raised $200,000 from 1,200 donors.

"While we are disappointed we didn't meet the threshold to qualify for the ballot, we are encouraged by the amount of support from every sector of the state," a spokesperson stated. "We gathered more signatures for a statewide initiative than any all-volunteer effort in the history of California."

Tony Hoang, a gay man who's the executive director of statewide LGBTQ rights group Equality California, stated, "We are relieved that anti-LGBTQ+ extremists have failed to reach the required signature threshold to qualify their anti-transgender ballot initiatives to the November 2024 ballot.

"Equality California will continue to advocate for the rights of LGBTQ+ youth everywhere, and push back against any and all efforts by extremist groups who seek to discriminate against them," he continued.

The backers of the proposed measure had been approved to collect signatures late last year, as the B.A.R. reported. During the signature-gathering phase was a legal fight after Attorney General Rob Bonta's office titled the measure "Restricts Rights of Transgender Youth." Liberty Justice Center filed a lawsuit February 13 in Sacramento County Superior Court on behalf of Protect Kids California that alleged Bonta's personal beliefs led to a biased title and summary.

The center contended the ballot measure proponents should be given 180 additional days for signature gathering without discounting signatures already collected.

Bonta "has demonstrated that he personally, and in his official capacity, is opposed to any kind of notification by a public school to a parent or guardian that his or her child is exhibiting signs of gender dysphoria when the child asks the school to publicly treat him or her as the opposite sex with a new name or pronouns, and to allow the child to use the sex-segregated facilities of the opposite sex," the groups claimed in the suit.

But a Sacramento Superior Court judge sided with Bonta in a ruling first issued tentatively April 19 and was made final April 22. Judge Stephen Acquisto ruled that Bonta's title and summary are accurate.

"Under current law, minor students have express statutory rights with respect to their gender identity," Acquisto stated. "A substantial portion of the proposed measure is dedicated to eliminating or restricting these statutory rights. ... The proposed measure would eliminate express statutory rights and place a condition of parental consent on accommodations that are currently available without such condition."

The attorney general's office has some leeway when it comes to determining ballot titles, the judge noted.

"The proposed measure objectively 'restricts rights' of transgender youth by preventing the exercise of their existing rights. 'Restricts rights of transgender youth' is an accurate and impartial description of the proposed measure," Acquisto added.

In its May 28 statement, Protect Kids California claimed that "had the measure qualified for the ballot, its proponents are confident it would pass," and that "our message is simple: schools shouldn't keep secrets from parents; we should protect girls' sports and private spaces at school; and we should protect kids from unproven, life-altering and often sterilizing medical procedures. We vow to continue fighting for these principles."

Advocates of the outing policy are now turning their attention toward blocking Assembly Bill 1955, which will be heard Wednesday, May 29, by the Senate Education Committee. As the B.A.R. noted last week, gay state Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) gutted-and-amended one of his bills to revive the legislation after shelving it last fall.

His SAFETY Act, for Support Academic Futures & Educators for Today's Youth, would ban the forced outing of transgender students in the state by public school officials unless they determine doing so is in the best interest of the youth. If enacted into state law, it would supersede any such policies adopted by school districts and make them null and void.

The bill also includes a provision protecting teachers who oppose such policies from retaliation by school district officials. It comes as Bonta seeks a final ruling from the San Bernardino County Superior Court against the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education. The court had issued a preliminary injunction order against the school district from carrying out the forced outing policy it had approved then rescinded in March due to the court's action.

With broad backing from state leaders and education groups, it is expected that Ward's bill will be sent to Governor Gavin Newsom to sign into law this fall.

Updated, 5/29/24: This article has been updated with comments from EQCA.

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