Transgender rights vs. parent rights. California goes to court to settle school divide

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Lifestyles

Collectively, these school systems represent a tiny fraction of the more than 1,000 in California, which is why a statewide initiative implanting their values in the state constitution could have such a sweeping effect.

What's in a name?

Court battles over the names and descriptions of ballot measures occur periodically, with the law requiring that the attorney general affix a neutral title. At least 10 lawsuits sought changes to the descriptions of half a dozen ballot measures presented to voters in November 2020.

In the case of the proposed ballot measure related to transgender youth, supporters object not only to Bonta's title but also a summary of the initiative that they contend in court documents is "inaccurate, blatantly argumentative, and prejudicial." They said a title that includes "protecting students" could appeal to voters. One that focuses on limiting an individual's rights might not.

The measure would also ban children's medical treatment or surgery to address gender dysphoria — distress caused when an individual's biological sex does not match that person's gender identity. It also would bar transgender students born as biological males from participating in girls sports, including at the college level. And it would delete an education code that allows students to participate in sports "irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil's records."

The current name, Restricts Rights of Transgender Youth, has made it harder to get signatures and attract donors to pay for signature-gathering, said lead proponent Jonathan Zachreson, who must collect 546,651 signatures from registered votes. He said he is reasonably confident the measure will qualify.


"Talking to our volunteers, we realized it did have a detrimental impact," said Zachreson.

In a statement, the attorney general's office defended its title and summary: "We take this responsibility seriously and stand by our title and summary for this measure. However, we cannot comment on pending litigation."

Defenders of the attorney general's language include parent and former teacher Kristi Hirst, leader of Our Schools USA, which is based in Chino and has attempted to counter the right-wing activists.

"The people screaming for 'parental rights' are trying to take rights away from my kids while telling me how to raise them," Hirst said.


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