Conservative group sues CA over anti-trans ballot title

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Friday February 16, 2024
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A person sits with a transgender flag at last year's Trans March. The group Protect Kids California has filed a lawsuit requesting that the title and summary of its anti-trans initiative be changed. Photo: Rick Gerharter
A person sits with a transgender flag at last year's Trans March. The group Protect Kids California has filed a lawsuit requesting that the title and summary of its anti-trans initiative be changed. Photo: Rick Gerharter

A conservative group is suing the state of California over the title and summary Attorney General Rob Bonta assigned to its ballot measure on transgender minors.

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

In preparing a ballot title and summary for the measure, Bonta titled it "Restricts Rights of Transgender Youth."

Liberty Justice Center filed the lawsuit February 13 in Sacramento County Superior Court on behalf of Protect Kids California. The anti-trans group had previously announced that it planned to file the suit.

"Regardless of the perspective or content of a ballot initiative, Californians are owed a neutral title and summary of that initiative as part of their core political speech," Emily Rae, senior counsel at the Liberty Justice Center, stated in a news release. "It is a threat to our system of government to allow individuals in positions of power to wield that power to silence, discredit, and shame those they disagree with. Ultimately, Rob Bonta owes it to Californians to uphold his duty as attorney general — without injecting bias or prejudice into the matter."

The suit requests the court to force Bonta to issue another title and summary.

"Respondent 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 civil complaint states. "This parent notification requirement is one of the principal aspects of the Initiative."

The lawsuit also requests that if the court agrees and orders the title changed, Protect Kids California be given 180 additional days for signature gathering without discounting signatures already collected.

"Respondent's decision makes it harder for ballot proponents to share their message and get signatures," the complaint states, referring to Bonta. "By infringing Petitioners' soliciting of signatures and by using government power to compel ideological speech, then Respondent's actions doubly trigger strict scrutiny. His actions cannot clear that lofty bar."

In a statement to the B.A.R. February 16, Bonta's office stood by how it decided to title and summarize the ballot measure.

"Under California law, the Attorney General's office is responsible for issuing official titles and summaries describing the chief purpose and points of every proposed initiative submitted in compliance with procedural requirements," an unnamed spokesperson stated. "We take this responsibility seriously and stand by our title and summary for this measure. However, we cannot comment on pending litigation."

Jay Reed of Protect Kids California stated to the B.A.R., "We find Attorney General Rob Bonta's title and summary for our proposed initiative laughable. Not only is the attorney general showing his bias, but he is also factually inaccurate. Our goal is to protect all kids across the state of California. We look forward to arguing our complaint in court."

Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang disagreed.

"This initiative proposed by a fringe group of anti-LGBTQ+ extremists deeply restricts the civil rights of transgender youth and their families in California," Hoang, a gay man, stated. "We believe that the title and summary are accurate and state quite clearly what the initiative seeks to accomplish."

Hoang was among the signatories on a letter to the editor sent to the B.A.R. in which the LGBTQ advocates said they were "continuing to actively monitor the proposed ballot measure and stand ready to take any essential action necessary to prevent its advancement."

Updated, 2/16/24: This article has been updated with comments from Protect Kids California and Equality California.

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