Bill that would have outed trans students dies in CA Assembly

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday April 12, 2023
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Republican California Assemblymembers Bill Essayli, left, and James Gallagher saw their bill die in committee April 10. Photos: Courtesy Essayli, Gallagher
Republican California Assemblymembers Bill Essayli, left, and James Gallagher saw their bill die in committee April 10. Photos: Courtesy Essayli, Gallagher

A bill that would have forced the outing of trans students introduced by two California Republican legislators is dead for the year after the chair of the Assembly's education committee opted not to schedule it for a hearing.

Assembly Bill 1314 would have required that parents or guardians be notified "in writing within 3 days from the date any teacher, counselor, or employee of the school becomes aware that a pupil is identifying at school as a gender that does not align with the child's sex on their birth certificate, other official records, or sex assigned at birth."

Under current law, school staff are required to use the pronouns and name a student requests, without official records being changed. Discrimination on the basis of gender identity is prohibited.

Jennifer Chou, the interim director of the Gender, Sexuality and Reproductive Justice Program at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, told the Bay Area Reporter that "recognizing that students have a right to privacy, many school districts have adopted policies prohibiting teachers and administrators from discussing students' sexual orientation or gender identity without their consent. Young people, not school staff, should decide if, and when, they come out to their parents."

The bill was introduced by Assemblymembers Bill Essayli (R-Riverside) and James M. "Jamie" Gallagher (R-Chico) and - though it stood no chance of being passed in a Democratic-controlled legislature - it had sparked an uproar, not the least of which came from gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). He had taken to Twitter to call it a "DeSantis-style bill," referring to Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who has signed into law several bills rolling back the rights of LGBTQ students.

At least one Florida school district has adopted a policy requiring staff to notify parents if their pupil identifies as gay, or asks a different name or pronouns be used, according to them magazine.

"Nope, not in CA," Wiener tweeted March 13.

Essayli, quote-tweeting Wiener, stated, "I encourage you to read the bill and my thread. My bill is aimed at supporting trans minors, not hurting them. The notification requirement is only triggered when a minor is already publicly identifying by a different gender at school."

"Children are the domain of their parents, not the government," Essayli stated, defending the bill. "Schools cannot decide what information should or shouldn't be shared with parents. Trans minors are higher risk for depression and suicide. More than 50% of trans minors have considered suicide."

Wiener told the B.A.R. on April 10 that AB 134 is "a dangerous bill, and we will do everything in our power to ensure it dies a quick death."

"Make no mistake, this bill would force teachers to out trans kids to their parents — whether or not the kid is ready to come out and whether or not that outing would put the kid at risk of violence," Wiener stated. "This bill would traumatize thousands of trans youth, and it could put their safety at risk if they don't have a supportive environment at home."

The bill's quick demise happened the same day after Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), chair of the education committee, declined to schedule it for a hearing.

"All students deserve to be respected and supported for who they are, including at their schools," Muratsuchi stated. "This bill would require educators to 'out' a student to their parents, even when the student does not feel comfortable coming out, potentially forcing them into an unwelcoming or abusive home. As a parent, I believe that gender identity conversations between parents and their children should occur in a safe and private space.

"As chair of the education committee, I will not be setting AB 1314 for a hearing, not only because the bill is proposing bad policy, but also because a hearing would potentially provide a forum for increasingly hateful rhetoric targeting LGBTQ youth," he added.

Jorge Reyes Salinas, the spokesperson for statewide LGBTQ organization Equality California, told the B.A.R. that the move means the bill is "essentially dead this year" because "it cannot advance unless heard by the committee and the chair determines which bills will be scheduled for a hearing."

EQCA Executive Director Tony Hoang, a gay man, was pleased with the bill's demise.

"Under existing law, parents already have ample rights to be active partners in their children's education — LGBTQ+ youth should be given dignity and respect to decide when and how to reveal intimate details about their lives," Hoang stated. "The state should play no part in right-wing attempts to vilify trans people and further inflame the never-ending culture war. We must enact policies that will protect truly trans youth and help to ensure they have every opportunity to succeed."

Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) had a similar sentiment.

"I strongly oppose the bill and am relieved it died today," Haney stated to the B.A.R. April 10. "It is terrible policy and dangerous for the health, well-being and safety of LGBTQ+ students."

Essayli and Gallagher's offices issued statements framing Muratsuchi's decision as a refusal to consider the rights of parents.

Gallagher stated that Democratic and Republican lawmakers see parents in fundamentally different ways.

"This decision confirms there are two fundamentally different views of education: Republicans want to empower parents to be involved with their children's upbringing and education, while Democrats see parents as a threat to be isolated and ignored," he stated. "Democrats' refusal to even hear our bill confirms they are only interested in dictating a one-size-fits-all policy from Sacramento and shutting down anyone with a different point of view. It's sad, but not surprising."

Essayli encouraged parents to sue school districts if a child's social transition is happening without their consent.

"The Supreme Court has already ruled that parents have a fundamental right to direct the care, upbringing, and education of their children," Essayli stated, referring to the U.S. high court. "While Democrats have the votes to kill my bill in Sacramento, they do not have the votes to suppress parents' voices at the local level. I encourage parents to continue bringing lawsuits against their school districts challenging existing policies that allow children to be socially transitioned at school without parental consent."

The California Family Council, a state affiliate of James Dobson's Focus on the Family, characterized Muratsuchi's decision as the Legislature refusing to hold a hearing to "stop schools from keeping secrets from parents."

"This state policy pits public schools against any Christian parent who loves their children, but also believes what the Bible teaches, that sex is determined by biology, not feelings," the council stated.

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