Opponents gear up to fight transgender law

AB 1266 allows transgender students to play on sports teams and use bathrooms of the gender they identify with. Conservatives aim to repeal it.

SACRAMENTO — It seems pretty simple: If a student has male genitalia, the kid uses the boys' bathroom. If there are female organs, then it's the girls' room.


But what if the student wears a skirt, makeup and lipstick, and has a penis? Which restroom then?

California voters may be asked to answer that question next year in the November election.

And it's not really so simple after all. What if a kid with a penis is standing at the boys' urinal wearing a dress and a pretty hair bow?

"That just causes commotion," says Wendy Hill, a state Assembly staffer who helped guide a new transgender-rights law through the Legislature. "It opens up to bullying."

A student who looks like a girl, Hill adds, "feels safer going into a stall in the girls' restroom."

If you think all of this is silly, you're not alone. That's probably most voters' view. Doesn't Sacramento have more important problems to solve?

Maybe not if you're a transgender kid whose gender identity doesn't conform to your sex organs of birth.

Admittedly I'm way out of my league here, like most people are on this topic.

Let's back up.

In July, the Legislature passed AB 1266, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), requiring public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and participate on sports teams that match the gender they feel identifies them.

The measure could not have passed without overwhelming Democratic dominance of the Legislature. It barely cleared the Senate and was approved by a small margin in the Assembly, where the speaker is gay.

All the "yes" votes were cast by Democrats. A dozen Democrats simply ducked the vote. Two voted "no." All Republicans opposed it except four who abstained.

"Transgender individuals have had to suffer through some of the worst indignities and personal problems of anybody in our society," Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) told a KNBC-TV interviewer. "This bill is about making sure there is a safe place for [transgender] kids to fully participate in their schools."

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill.

For many, this merely amounts to more liberal excess in Sacramento.

A conservative coalition has mounted a drive to repeal the measure in the 2014 general election. It needs to collect about 505,000 valid voter signatures by Nov. 8 — roughly 700,000 in all to be safe.

Nearly 500,000 have been collected so far, says political consultant Frank Schubert, who five years ago masterminded the passage of Proposition 8, the contentious initiative that banned same-sex marriage. Federal courts overturned it.

The transgender law is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. But if the referendum qualifies for the ballot, the law will be suspended until voters decide.

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