Gov. Brown Signs Transgender Students’ Rights Bill

By Scott Detrow, KQED

Update 1:05pm: Gov. Jerry Brown has signed AB 1266 into law.

Here’s the original post:

A bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk would allow transgender students to participate in sports and other activities as well as use facilities based on how they identify their gender, regardless of what sex they were born as. The governor has until Tuesday at midnight to sign or veto the bill.

The legislation, AB 1266, adds just four words to California law, but the Transgender Law Center’s legal director, Ilona Turner, calls it a major step toward acceptance.

“When transgender students are forced to participate in activities based on the sex that they were assigned that is not the sex they are living as, it outs them as transgender, for one thing,” she said, “and subjects them to all kinds of stigma and harassment from their peers.”

California’s education laws already ban gender-based discrimination, but outreach group Gender Spectrum’s director of education and training, Joel Baum, said the new measure would “give clear direction” to school administrators making decisions on a sensitive subject.

Last month a transgender student in Arcadia won a federal complaint because the school district did not allow him to use the boys’ restrooms and locker rooms. Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) called on the governor to sign the bill.

“The gender identity of these kids needs to be respected and they shouldn’t have to sue to make it happen,” Ammiano said in a release.

Senate debate on AB 1266 earlier this summer highlighted some of the dynamics school districts are dealing with. Republican Senator Stephen Knight warned boys might use the law to compete in and dominate girls sports. “This doesn’t leave a loophole,” he said. “It leaves a cavernous hole that many kids will see. And if you think high school kids won’t do something like that, then a lot of you weren’t in high school very recently.”

“People just don’t pretend to be transgender,” countered Turner. “That simply doesn’t happen. Being transgender is not a popular thing. Transgender students face harassment, violence and just a great deal of bias from other students and the world. Nobody is going to intentionally take that on if they are not, in fact, transgender.”

While California often claims the mantle of being the first state to implement new laws or policies, this bill isn’t one of them. New Jersey law already addresses the issue, and six other states have regulations or guidance in place allowing transgender students or employees to choose which facilities they use.

The measure passed both chambers on party-line votes. If the governor does not act, the bill will become law without his signature.

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