Mere ownership of a penis or a vagina will no longer limit California students in their decisions concerning which bathrooms and locker rooms to use, or which sports teams to join.
Under a proposed law that has passed the state legislature and now awaits the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown, students in California will be able to make such choices based on their perceived gender identities, CNN reports.
Assembly Bill 1266 aims to extend the rights of transgender students. The text requires that students “be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”
In May, California’s Assembly had approved the proposed law, which was advertised as the School Success and Opportunity Act. This week, the state Senate passed the proposal by a 21-9 vote.
Representatives for Gov. Brown have not signaled whether he will sign the bill.
If the new law goes into effect, it will be the first such law anywhere in the country that expressly insists that public school facilities and school-sponsored activities provide equal access to all students based purely on the way they feel about their genders.
“Our view is that California’s existing law should already require schools to provide transgender students with equal access to facilities and activities,” Shannon Price Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told CNN.
In a statement, the center alleged that transgender students “are often still unfairly excluded from physical education, athletic teams, and other school activities and facilities because of who they are.”
State Senate Republicans resisted the proposed law vigorously.
“There are youthful sex offenders,” noted state Sen. Jim Nielsen, according to CNN. “I guarantee there would be those who would use this opportunity.”
“It’s going to be problem with implementation,” predicted Sen. Jean Fuller.
As San Diego Gay & Lesbian News reports, The Golden State’s gay lobby stands united behind the bill. Support comes from a coalition of organizations including Transgender Law Center, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Gender Spectrum, Equality California, and National Center for Lesbian Rights. The state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also supports the bill.
Parent-teacher organizations across the state also lent enthusiastic support to the proposed law.
The Los Angeles Unified School District already has a policy in place that contains language similar to the language in the bill.
“We’ve worked closely with students and families to ensure that our policies related to gender identity are successful, welcomed by students, and supported by parents,” LAUSD spokeswoman Judy Chiasson said in a statement.
Ashton Lee, a 16-year-old student from Manteca High School who testified on behalf of the bill before the California Senate Education Committee, is happy that it now sits one step away from law on the Democratic governor’s desk.
“It means that I’m going to be able to be exactly who I am at school, and I’m not going to have any more barriers holding me back,” Lee told The Record, the daily broadsheet out of Stockton.
“I’m really proud of myself, and I’m proud of everybody who was involved in it.”
Lee was born a girl but now wants to have a gender identity indicating maleness for the sake of school records.
Lee may also join the football team if Brown signs the bill.