A coalition of individuals and non-profits has been working to obtain signatures for a petition to fight a law that allows transgender individuals to use sex-segregated facilities in public schools, such as restrooms, according to the gender they identify with, regardless of their biological sex.
The coalition, called Privacy for All, submitted a ballot initiative to California Attorney General Kamala Harris in April called the “Personal Privacy Protection Act,” which would require individuals to use public facilities according to their biological sex. Official petitions were made available for signatures in mid-July, and the group has been gathering support since. Privacy for All aims to gather 500,000 signatures by November 20th.
This is a move to go against California Assembly Bill 1266, a law sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) that requires public schools to allow students to use their sex-segregated facilities and participate in their sex-segregated programs according to the gender students identify with. Supporters of AB 1266 argue the law protects transgender students from being bullied and from being hindered from achieving their highest academic potential. Opponents argue such a law violates the privacy and hinders the performance of the other individuals using the facilities and participating in the programs.
The Personal Privacy Protection Act would require individuals to use public sex-segregated facilities only according to their biological sex, which the act defines as “the biological condition of being male or female as determined at or near the time of birth, or through medical examination or as modified by Health & Safety Code § 103425.” The inclusion of that last portion — “as modified by Health & Safety Code § 103425” — allows individuals who have undergone treatment for gender transition to use facilities according to their new biological sex.
The Personal Privacy Protection Act also makes exceptions for family restrooms, single use restrooms, and instances in which a child or person with a medical condition needs assistance from another individual.
"The bathroom policing initiative would unfairly single out transgender people and people who don’t meet stereotypes of what it looks like to be male or female for interrogation and exclusion,” argued Kris Hayashi, the executive director of Transgender Law Center, regarding the Personal Privacy Protection Act.
Brad Dacus, the president of the legal group Pacific Justice Institute, which is a part of the Privacy for All coalition, argued that the proposed bill will “allow Californians to reclaim essential privacy rights.”
“We can and we must be both compassionate toward those suffering from gender identity dysphoria, and exercise common sense in not casting aside crucial constitutional rights like privacy. This initiative strikes the appropriate balance,” Dacus argued.
This is the second time AB 1266 has come under fire since it became law, following the first attempt to make the bill invalid in 2013 by a coalition called Privacy for All Students.
In 2013, Privacy for All Students sought to put AB 1266 itself — which only discusses the use of facilities within public schools — on the voter ballot and let voters decide whether it should be California law. This new proposal by Privacy for All is different in that its proposal includes a completely new law that discusses not only facilities in public schools but facilities in government buildings in general, and also protects businesses from facing lawsuits for requiring individuals to use their facilities according to their biological sex.
In other words, if the Personal Privacy Protection Act were to qualify and make it onto the voter ballot, and if the voters were to vote in favor of the bill, it would not only prove AB 1266 ineffective but its effects would reach beyond the public school system and would apply to all government buildings.
Privacy for All Students needed a little over 500,000 valid signatures in 2013 for the proposal to qualify. 619,381 signatures were gathered by the November 10, 2013 deadline, but only 487,484 signatures were considered valid by the Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office, falling short of the quota requirement.
This year, Privacy for All needs 365,880 valid petition signatures for the ballot initiative to qualify, but the coalition is aiming to gather several hundreds of thousands more to account for discounted signatures. (The amount of signatures needed this year differs from that which was needed in 2013 because the amount required must be equal to 5 percent of the votes that were cast for all candidates for Governor during the most recent gubernatorial election. A lower voter turnout in the 2014 gubernatorial election rendered for a lower amount of signatures required for the proposal to qualify this year.)
Meanwhile, two lawsuits have been filed following the invalidation of some 17,000 petition signatures for the 2013 attempt. For one case, Gina Gleason vs. Debra Bowen, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner ruled against Bowen and said that 5,000 signatures from Mono County and Tulare County must be accepted as valid. The second lawsuit was filed by the Pacific Justice Institute also against Debra Bowen, and argues that the invalidation of the signatures were carried out “improperly.” This latter lawsuit was filed on March 25, 2014, and is ongoing. If found in favor of the Pacific Justice Institute, Bowen would be required to place AB 1266 in the next state voter ballot.