A clash over transgender rights in California is heating up as opponents of a "co-ed bathroom" law for children and teens press forward with a petition drive to let state voters decide next year whether the law goes into effect.
The "Privacy for All Students — Stop AB 1266" campaign has fewer than 40 days to collect more than 500,000 signatures to qualify as an initiative on the ballot.
If successful, the campaign will both block the transgender student law from going into effect Jan. 1, and place it on the November 2014 ballot for voters to approve or reject.
The goal is to turn in 650,000 to 700,000 signatures by Nov. 8, Karen England, a co-chairman of the campaign, said Monday.
"The energy out there is unbelievable," she said, adding that more than 100,000 petitions — a "huge" number — have already been requested from their campaign.
The law, signed last month by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, permits California students in kindergarten to 12th grade to use facilities and join sex-segregated teams and activities "consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil's records."
Gay-rights allies hail the School Success and Opportunity Act as a milestone for transgender youth who struggle to fit in at school.
During legislative hearings this year, Ashton Lee, 16, who is changing from female to male, told lawmakers that the measure would permit him to attend physical education classes with boys. It will "finally allow me to go to school as myself, a regular boy," Ashton said.
The law is supported by more than 40 organizations, including the Transgender Law Center, Equality California, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Gender Spectrum, National Center for Lesbian Rights and American Civil Liberties Union.
However, Ms. England and allies, including the National Organization for Marriage, say the law is "one step too far."
Current law says schools cannot discriminate against transgender students, and must accommodate them, but it allows school districts and families to decide how that accommodation takes place, such as the use of a unisex bathroom, said Ms. England, executive director of Capitol Resource Institute.
The new law says students can decide which locker rooms, showers and restrooms to use, and which sex-segregated teams and competitions they want to join.
"What about the majority of students?" Ms. England, asked. "What about their rights to privacy? The rights to go into the bathroom of their own gender and not have the opposite sex in there with them?"
Separately, on Friday, a male-to-female transgender student was voted as homecoming queen at a Hunting Beach, Calif., high school, but later made a video saying negative backlash ruined the day.
Winning the crown should have been "monumental and memorable," but "I can't even enjoy it. I can't even be happy. Everybody is so upset about it," a tearful 16-year-old Cassidy Lynn Campbell, still wearing her gown, sash and tiara, said in a video posted on YouTube.
Ms. Campbell had been known as Lance Campbell until beginning the transgender process three years ago. She said she decided to run for homecoming queen at Marina High School to represent transgender equality, and was elated to win the crown Sept. 20.
But "ignorant" and "stupid" reactions to her victory stole the joy, the teen said in a nearly nine-minute video.
"It just hurts so bad because I feel just as much of a girl as all of them do," Ms. Campbell said, referring to her competitors. "I just want to be happy because I deserve to be happy just like any other human," she said. "Boy, girl — doesn't matter. It's just a human."
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