Transgender student athletes in California’s public schools may soon be the first in the nation to be afforded the expressed legal right under state law both to participate on athletic teams and to be given open and unrestricted access to whichever locker room is “consistent” with their self-assigned gender identity.
More specifically, Assembly Bill 1266 would allow a male high school senior who identifies himself as a female, not only to play on the girl’s basketball, volleyball or field hockey team, but also to change, dress, and shower in the girl’s locker room. Conversely, the law would provide identical rights to females who self-identify as males.
“AB 1266 is a recipe for disaster,” said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R) in a statement. “Allowing teenaged boys and girls in the same locker room, showering side by side, is a bad idea.”
San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D) sponsored AB 1266–the so-called “Bathroom Bill”–and after passing in both the Assembly and the Senate, it now needs only Democratic Governor Jerry Brown’s signature to become law.
According to Ammiano, AB1266 would “ensure” transgender students “equal access to all educational activities” because “all students should have a fair opportunity to participate in school programs, activities and facilities.” To better address the needs of and concerns for California’s K-12 transgender students, the bill would amend the current Education Code and make the new requirements under state law explicit.
Ammiano explains further the bill’s necessity:
Although current California law already protects students from discrimination in education based on sex and gender identity, many school districts do not understand and are not presently in compliance with their obligations to treat transgender students the same as all other students in the specific areas addressed by this bill. As a result, some school districts are excluding transgender students from sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities. Other school districts struggle to deal with these issues on an ad hoc basis. Current law is deficient in that it does not provide specific guidance about how to apply the mandate of non-discrimination in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities.
Many critics argue, that if enacted, the “politically correct” legislation engineered and favored by the intelligentsia in Sacramento would prescribe a “one size fits all” public policy approach. Consequently, local school boards would be stripped of their authority and individual schools would be denied the discretion to make decisions “at the level closest to the problem.”
Amianno, known also for introducing “The Homeless Bill of Rights,” has been backed by a host of well-known advocacy groups. The list includes but is not limited to Equality California, Gender Spectrum, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Transgender Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union of California, Anti-Defamation League, California Federation of Teachers, California State PTA, and the California Teachers Association.
Although defeated in the State Legislature, AB1266 opponents debated their side passionately and now remain hopeful that Gov. Brown will veto the measure. Those opposed to the bill include the Capitol Resource Institute, the California Catholic Conference, the Pacific Justice Institute, the Concerned Women for America, and the Traditional Values Coalition.
According to the Associated Press, the Capitol Resource Institute (CRI) fought the legislation “on behalf of students who might ‘object to sharing bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms with students of the opposite sex.'”
CRI’s Executive Director Karen England believes the bill to be overreaching and its implications outweighing the magnitude of the situation: “This is really a rare thing, so to make this drastic, radical mandate on the schools for an extremely rare situation is just hijacking the school system.”
As England told Fox News, “AB 1266 forces San Francisco values on all California schools.”
Republican Sen. Jim Neilson, who voted against the bill, expressed his sentiments.
“It is not all about discrimination,” said Nielsen in comments to the Associated Press. “Elementary and secondary students of California–our most impressionable, our most vulnerable–now may be subjected to some very difficult situations.”
Neilsen added: “Think about the millions of California parents and students who at the least would be extraordinarily uncomfortable with what this bill would impose upon them.”
The previously mentioned Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly points out an additional reason for his opposition:
“We cannot allow the state to sanction such an invasion of our kids’ privacy, opening up the school district and the state to unlimited liability from the easily identifiable consequences of adopting such an unwise policy.”
While the “Bathroom Bill’s” chief sponsor Ammiano acknowledges the opposition’s concerns, he nevertheless finds such arguments to be subordinate to the legislation’s intended goal of “ensuring” transgender student-athletes be guaranteed “the same opportunities and experiences as other children.”
As the well-practiced Democratic activist Ammiano puts forth, although “…new experiences are often uncomfortable. That can’t be an excuse for prejudice.”