Backers of 3 anti-trans CA measures receive OK to begin signature drives

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday November 2, 2023
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A person sits with a transgender flag at this year's Trans March. The group Protect Kids California's three anti-trans California ballot measures have been cleared for signature gathering by the secretary of state's office. Photo: Rick Gerharter
A person sits with a transgender flag at this year's Trans March. The group Protect Kids California's three anti-trans California ballot measures have been cleared for signature gathering by the secretary of state's office. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Proponents of a trio of ballot measures restricting the rights of transgender youth are now free to launch signature drives to qualify them for California's 2024 fall ballot. It is the latest salvo in the ongoing legal and legislative fights over protecting LGBTQ youth in the Golden State.

Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber, Ph.D., announced Thursday that she had cleared the proponents of the three initiatives to begin collecting signatures from 546,651 registered voters for each of them. It represents 5% of the total votes cast for governor in the November 2022 general election.

The group Protect Kids California, co-founded by Jonathan Zachreson, has until April 29 to turn in the required signatures to county elections officials. It had submitted the three initiatives to the office of state Attorney General Rob Bonta in August, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported.

Bonta is responsible for issuing the title and summary for ballot measures. He has also been waging a court fight over the focus of one of the proposed propositions, which would explicitly say that school districts can forcibly out transgender and nonbinary students to their parents or legal guardians without their permission.

Several Southern California school boards have already adopted such a policy this year. One of them, Chino Valley Unified School District, is being sued by Bonta over its adoption of a mandatory gender identity disclosure policy.

Last month, a San Bernardino Superior Court judge granted a preliminary injunction against enforcing two parts of the policy. They were the requirements that staff out students for identifying as transgender or gender-nonconforming at school, as well as for accessing sex-segregated programs and activities that align with their gender, as the B.A.R. reported.

As for the ballot measure, Bonta titled it as "Requires Schools To Report Any Change In A Student's Expressed Gender, Without Exception For Student's Safety." Its secretary of state tracking number is 1960 and the attorney general's tracking number for it is 23-0018A1, Weber's announcement stated.

As explained by Bonta's office, it "requires K-12 schools to notify parents whenever a student under age 18 asks to be treated as a gender different from what is listed on their school records — for example, by requesting to use an alternate name or pronouns, or use facilities for a different gender. Does not provide exception if student requests confidentiality or where disclosure would endanger their safety; includes exception only for certain communications with school counselors."

It also "prohibits schools from recognizing the student's expressed gender without written parental authorization," noted Bonta's office.

As for the cost to implement the measure were it to be adopted, the state's legislative analyst and director of finance noted that there would be "minor administrative and workload costs" for schools, colleges, and universities ranging "from no effect to a few millions of dollars initially, depending on whether the measure can be legally implemented."

Second measure

The second school-related ballot measure has been titled by Bonta's office as "Eliminates Students' Rights To Participate in School Activities Consistent With Their Gender Identity." He noted that it "repeals 2013 state law allowing students to participate in school activities and use school facilities consistent with their gender identity."

He also explained that it requires public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities to "prohibit transgender female students in grades 7 and higher from participating in female sports; and restrict use of gender-segregated facilities (e.g., bathrooms, locker rooms) only to persons assigned that gender at birth."

The secretary of state's tracking number for the measure is 1961, while the attorney general's tracking number is 23-0019A1. It defines the terms "male" and "female," noted Bonta's office, "exclusively by reference to certain reproductive traits."

It has a similar cost warning for schools and colleges as the other education-related measure. But Bonta's office also noted that, "if legally implemented, there could be potential, but unknown, cost pressures related to federal fiscal penalties if the measure results in schools, colleges, or universities being deemed out of compliance with federal law."

Third proposal

The third ballot measure Bonta's office titled as "Prohibits Gender-Affirming Health Care For Minors." Its secretary of state tracking number is 1962 and for the attorney general it is 23-0020A1.

As Bonta's office explains, it "prohibits health care providers from providing transgender patients under 18 with medical care to affirm a gender identity that differs from the minor's gender assigned at birth. Prohibits such treatment even if parents consent or it is medically recommended for the minor's mental or physical wellbeing."

It also "allows limited exceptions if minor: (1) has certain narrowly defined medical conditions; (2) began a continuous course of treatment before January 1, 2025; or (3) wishes to reverse prior treatment. Health care providers who violate the prohibition could lose their license or certification."

As for its costs to implement, the state fiscal officials estimate state and local governments could see "potentially relatively minor savings up to the millions of dollars annually from no longer paying for prohibited services for individuals under the age of 18. These savings could be affected by many other impacts, such as individuals seeking treatment later in life."

They also warn there could be "potential, but unknown, cost pressure to state and local governments related to federal fiscal penalties if the measure results in providers being deemed out of compliance with federal law."

Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization, did not immediately respond November 2 to the B.A.R.'s request for comment for this article.

As for the ballot measure proponents, they began in the summer raising funds to support their on-the-ground efforts for the signature drive. Their campaign account, A Students First California Committee in Support of Measures to Protect Kids, has yet to report any fundraising amounts with the state.

"Even though the supermajority in the Capitol is against us, the people of California are on our side," Zachreson had said at the time during an online forum where he discussed the ballot measures.

To sign up for updates about the anti-trans measures, and others proposed for next year's ballot, click here.

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