Editorial: That was quick

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday December 6, 2023
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An anti-trans group has folded three proposals for the November 2024 ballot into one massive transphobic initiative.
An anti-trans group has folded three proposals for the November 2024 ballot into one massive transphobic initiative.

No sooner had we editorialized about the danger of three potential anti-trans initiatives appearing on the November 2024 ballot in California than proponents pulled a fast one. They have combined the trio of measures into a single massive anti-trans initiative that would, as the state attorney general's office titled it, "Restricts Rights of Transgender Youth." That it certainly does.

So now the measure would ban gender-affirming care for minors; prevent trans women and girls from participating in women's sports; repeal a state law allowing trans students to use bathrooms or locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity; and require schools to notify parents if a student asks to be treated as a gender that doesn't match their school records. In other words, forced outing of trans students without their consent.

It will still be an uphill climb for this omnibus anti-trans initiative to qualify for the ballot. Proponents have to collect over 500,000 valid signatures, and the deadline is now late May. Previously, the anti-trans side would have had to submit signatures by late April, so they've received an extra month. Politico reported that proponents have not yet lined up deep-pocketed donors to fund a paid signature drive; they will rely on volunteers, at least initially. Politico also reported that proponents decided to consolidate the initiatives to make signature collection cheaper.

While state voters are generally pretty progressive, we do not want to underestimate the transphobia that exists in the Golden State. There are conservative areas of the state where school boards have passed forced outing policies, as we have reported. (One of those districts, Chino Valley Unified, has been slapped with a preliminary injunction prohibiting it from enforcing most of the policy after Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a lawsuit against it earlier this year.) Trans people, whether adults or youth, continue to face much discrimination here, from employment and housing opportunities to getting to play on sports teams. And that discrimination happens in cities as well as rural areas. California has taken some steps to protect trans youth, most notably a bill passed by gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) last year that makes it California policy to reject any out-of-state court judgments removing trans kids from their parents' custody because they allowed them to receive gender-affirming health care.

But not all is pro-trans, even in the Capitol. A couple of months ago, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill by Assemblymember Lori D. Wilson (D-Suisun City) that would have required courts "to strongly consider" if a parent is affirming of their child's gender identity or gender expression, and if they consent to legally changing the child's name and gender marker to mirror their preferred gender, when considering the legal guardianship and visitation rights of the minor's divorcing parents. Wilson, the parent of an adult trans child, certainly knows what types of policies would help trans youth.

It's likely that the anti-trans forces will begin signature gathering in earnest after the holidays, and readers should be on the lookout for people with clipboards trying to get their attention. If you see "Restricts Rights of Transgender Youth" at the top of a petition, do not sign it.

We are also doubling down on our call from last week that Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ rights organization, launch an aggressive decline to sign campaign that is ready to go in January. Now that there is only one anti-trans initiative, the focus will be easier for pro-LGBTQ organizations and volunteers. They should appeal to the fair-mindedness that many Californians hold dear.

There is no reason for a statewide ban when policies are already largely being decided at the local level, even as we vehemently disagree with forced outings, book bannings, and the like that have been adopted by some school boards, as well as Pride flag bans implemented by some cities and school districts — we're looking at you, Huntington Beach and Sunol.

There are going to be a lot of signature gatherers out on the streets seeking support for myriad measures. It's crucial that if you are approached, you pay attention to what you're being asked to sign. The ultimate goal is to prevent this anti-trans initiative from appearing on the ballot next November. If it does, EQCA and other pro-LGBTQ groups will have a tough time raising money to fight it because there will be so many other things on the ballot clamoring for voters' attention and dollars.

From president to U.S. Senate and House members, as well as local candidates, all will be vying for money. Not to mention the LGBTQ community will be fighting for the passage of Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 that would repeal the anti-same-sex marriage language from 2008's Proposition 8 that remains in the state's governing document. That effort will be more challenging if the anti-trans initiative is on the same ballot.

The anti-trans initiative proponents may have actually done us a favor by combining everything into one abhorrent proposal. It is yet another right-wing attempt — in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs decision that eliminated a woman's right to choose — to involve the government in the most intimate personal and family health care decisions.

It's up to us to say no, such hate does not belong in the Golden State.

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