California Becomes First to Pass Historic Transgender Law

By Joan E. Greve

Aug 13, 2013 3:21pm

California Gov. Jerry Brown made history in the transgender community by signing the first U.S. law to ensure transgender students equal access to the facilities and activities consistent with their gender identities.

The bill passed the California State Senate last Aug. 7 by a vote of 21-9. It was sponsored by multiple LGBTQ organizations, including the California-based Transgender Law Center.

“It’s a really important step for our community without a doubt,” Mark Snyder, a spokesman for the Transgender Law Center, told ABC. Snyder said LGBTQ supporters in California are “thrilled” to see the bill become a reality.

The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, trying to pass a similar pass in their own state released a statement of approval as well.

“We applaud Governor Brown and the state of California for taking this critical step to ensure that transgender youth have their gender identities affirmed and respected at school,” said Mason Dunn, MTPC’s executive director.

But others were less thrilled about the decision, including Peter Sprigg, a spokesman for the conservative Family Research Council, who said:  ”We think this law is very extreme.

“It even states in the law that they already have a law against gender identity discrimination in California, so the only purpose of this new law was to explicitly include the two most controversial and explosive aspects of this,” Sprigg added, referring to the equal access to facilities and student activities for transgender students.

Snyder and Sprigg agree that this law could very well be a sign of more to come. “I do suspect that we will see other movement in other states,” Snyder said.

When asked if he thought similar laws would follow, Sprigg said, “Unfortunately, yes. California has proven to be a trailblazer on some of these things and not in a good way from our perspective.”

Although Massachusetts already has a guidebook of “Best Practices for Serving Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students in Schools,” California is the first state to pass a specific law on the issue.

The law is the latest in a stream of decisions favoring the transgender community. In July, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education ruled in favor of a California teenaged transgender boy by requiring his school district to grant him access to men’s facilities and activities.

An, LGBTQ rights advocates applauded the case.

“All students, including transgender students, have the right to attend school free from discrimination based on their sex,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.

Snyder said that he hopes these decisions, including the California law, will help combat a persistent problem among transgender students: higher dropout rates due to harassment.

“I do see transgender students and parents asking and demanding that they have equal access to school,” Snyder said.

Last year’s case of Coy Mathis, the first grade girl who won her case to gain equal access to the girls’ restroom in school, brought this demand to a national stage.

And, in June, Maine’s Supreme Court heard arguments on the question of transgender students’ facility access when 15-year-old transgender girl Nicole Maines demanded that her school district follow suit of Mathis’.

But these decisions have met their fair share of opposition from organizations like Sprigg’s.

“We do not think gender identity should be included as a protected identity in the first place,” said Sprigg, who does not believe the “subjective feelings” of a transgender identity should overrule biology. “This bill pushes the concept really even to an extreme.”

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