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CA's Transgender Student Law Is 1st in U.S.

By Brett Snider, Esq. on August 14, 2013 11:36 AM

A new law accommodating transgender students in California was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday, making the state the first to expand transgender rights in public schools.

Backed by numerous equality organizations, the law will allow transgender public school students in California to choose which bathroom to use and to participate in either "boy or girl sports," reports Fox News. It goes into effect January 1, 2014.

Supporters see this law as a good step forward for transgender equality, but its detractors argue that this is a move in the wrong direction.

Gov. Brown Signs AB 1266

California's transgender student law, contained in Assembly Bill 1266, amends the California Education Code to add that students can, consistent with their gender identity:

  • Participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, and
  • Use gender specific facilities (read: bathrooms and locker rooms).

While using the girls' or boys' restroom may seem frivolous to most Americans, a student being able to use the restroom or locker room that aligns with that student's self-identified gender has been a battleground for families of transgender students nationwide.

Proponents see the law as a way to "reduce bullying and discrimination against transgender students," but some conservative lawmakers believe that allowing transgender kids to use the restroom of their choosing could "invade other students' privacy," reports The Associated Press.

Transgender Discrimination and Privacy

California's new law recognizes that the state already prohibits gender identity discrimination, so opponents feel this law serves only to put a finer point on two of the more "controversial and explosive" aspects of accommodating transgender students, reports ABC News.

To that point, California's Unruh Act, a public accommodations law, prevents government and private businesses open to the public from discriminating against persons based on their sex, including gender identity. So in its current form, the law already prohibits discrimination against transgender people, including public school students.

Karen England of the Capitol Resources Institute worries that with laws protecting transgender students, no one is protecting the "right to privacy of a junior high school girl" who wishes to avoid "being in the locker room with a boy," reports The Associated Press.

Although typically right to privacy claims in schools have dealt with locker searches or access to education records, there may be room for litigation for students who feel injured under California's codification of existing policies.

For the moment, however, transgender students in California and their families can enjoy formal recognition of their rights and interests by their home state.

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