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    How LGBTQ rights and parental notification bills fared in the California Legislature this year
    • October 17, 2023

    With school boardrooms becoming a dramatic front in the culture war over LGBTQ students and their privacy, California Gov. Gavin Newsom this fall signed a handful of bills intended to protect such students.

    School boards across California have begun debating new policies around transgender and gender non-conforming students and other LGBTQ issues. State lawmakers, meanwhile, engaged in their own debate with nearly a dozen bills in the California Legislature this session directly affecting the LGBTQ community, including one that was the model for many of the proposed school board policies this year.

    Newsom had until Oct. 14 to decide the fate of those bills. Here’s a look at how they fared:

    Assembly Bill 5

    Status: Signed by Newsom on Sept. 23.

    About the bill: AB 5, the “Safe and Supportive Schools Act,” sponsored by Assemblymember Rick Zbur, D-Los Angeles, requires the implementation of new “LGBTQ cultural competency training” for teachers and school staff in California.

    “AB 5 is the product of nearly a decade of advocacy that reflects the fact that LGBTQ+ students face higher dropout rates, rates of homelessness, and suicidal ideation, and we know that if a student is facing bullying in school, hostility in their community, or lack of a supportive home environment, the person they’re most likely to turn to is a school teacher or school counselor,” Zbur is quoted as saying in a news release. “This bill aims at helping these vulnerable students by giving teachers and school staff the tools and training they need to give these kids a shot at success.”

    Assembly Bill 223

    Status: Signed by Newsom on Sept. 23. The law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024.

    About the bill: AB 223, the “Transgender Youth Privacy Act,” sponsored by Assemblymember Christopher Ward, D-San Diego, requires courts to seal any petition by minors to legally change their gender or sex identification, in order to protect their privacy. Parent authorization would not be needed to change the vital records of a non-emancipated minor.

    “At a time when many of our public documents have become digitized and easily accessible by those who would do transgender youth harm, AB 223 will allow transgender youth the ability to share their personal information with whoever they wish when they are ready to disclose it,” Ward is quoted as saying in a news release. “The Transgender Youth Privacy Act protects these youth from being bullied so they can navigate their daily lives as themselves.”

    Assembly Bill 957

    Status: Vetoed by Newsom on Sept. 22.

    About the bill: AB 957, sponsored by Assemblymember Lori Wilson, D-Suisun City, would have required the court to consider whether a parent affirms their child’s gender identity in order to be granted custody or visitation rights. In his veto statement, Newsom cautioned against dictating legal standards, saying such efforts could be used to undermine civil rights in vulnerable communities. Courts already have the ability to factor in whether a parent affirms a child’s gender identity when determining what is best for a child, Newsom wrote in his veto.

    “I’ve been disheartened over the last few years as I watched the rising hate and heard the vitriol toward the trans community,” Wilson wrote on Twitter. “My intent with this bill was to give them a voice, particularly in the family court system where a non-affirming parent could have a detrimental impact on the mental health and well-being of a child.”

    Assembly Bill 1078

    Status: Signed by Newsom on Sept. 25. The new law took effect immediately.

    About the bill: AB 1078, the “Safe Place to Learn Act,” sponsored by Corey Jackson, D-Perris, requires the state Board of Education to develop a policy that local education agencies, including school districts, must follow before removing any instructional materials, abandoning any curriculum or removing any books from school libraries.

    Agencies must get state Board of Education approval for any such removals from the curriculum or the library, or face fines, according to the bill. New instructional materials must also “accurately portray the cultural and racial diversity of our society,” including LGBTQ Americans, people with disabilities and members of other ethnic and cultural groups. New instructional material must also include “proportional and accurate representation of California’s diversity,” including by race, gender, socioeconomic status, religion and sexuality.

    Jackson sponsored the bill after Temecula Valley Unified made national headlines when it tried to ban a social studies curriculum that briefly touched on assassinated LGBTQ civil rights icon Harvey Milk, drawing the ire of Newsom and California Attorney General Rob Bonta.

    “It is the responsibility of every generation to continue the fight for civil and human rights against those who seek to take them away. Today, California has met this historical imperative, and we will be ready to meet the next one,” Jackson is quoted as saying in a news release issued by his office.

    California is the second state in the nation to pass a book-banning ban. Illinois passed a similar law in June.

    Assembly Bill 1314

    Status: Died in committee.

    About the bill: AB 1314, the bill that has inspired new school board policies around California, sponsored by Assemblymember Bill Essayli, R-Corona, would have required school districts to notify parents in writing within three days of their child declaring that they did not wish to identify by their birth sex. AB 1314 died without getting a hearing in education committee, a preliminary step before being heard by the entire Assembly.

    Essayli blasted the decision in a news release.

    The decision to deny the bill a hearing “is symbolic of where Sacramento Democrats stand on parental rights,” Essayli is quoted as saying in the release. “They believe the government owns our children and that parents do not have a right to know what is happening with their own children at school.”

    Although the bill died, it lived on in the form of school board measures across California, including in Chino Valley, Murrietta Valley, Orange Unified and Temecula Valley. The policies — and policies that forbid districts from notifying parents when their child declares they do not wish to identify by their birth sex — are making their way through the courts.

    A proposed November 2024 ballot measure would enshrine a version of AB 1314 into the state Constitution, should it pass. As of Oct. 13, advocates for the ballot measure have not yet begun collecting the 546,651 signatures from California registered voters — equal to 5% of all ballots cast in the 2022 gubernatorial ballot — needed to qualify for the 2024 ballot.

    Assembly Bill 1432

    Status: Vetoed by Newsom on Oct. 7.

    About the bill: AB 1432, sponsored by Assemblymember Wendy Carillo, D-Los Angeles, would have required out-of-state healthcare insurance providers who provide coverage to California residents to comply with the state’s constitutional amendment that makes abortion and gender-affirming care a right. The bill was intended to prevent insurance companies headquartered in other states from denying such care.

    In his veto statement, the governor wrote that “it is not evident that out-of-state health insurance plans serving Californians do not already cover this care. Further, though well intentioned, this bill could invite litigation where an adverse ruling would outweigh a potential benefit.”

    Senate Bill 345

    Status: Signed by Newsom on Sept. 27.

    About the bill: SB 345, sponsored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D–Berkeley, helps protect insurance providers against the enforcement of other states’ laws that criminalize or limit reproductive health care services or gender-affirming health care.

    “An estimated 36 million women of child-bearing age now live in states that have outlawed abortion,” Skinner is quoted as saying in a news release issued by her office. “There’s also an alarming movement of states criminalizing gender-affirming care. With Gov. Newsom’s signing of SB 345, health care providers, physically located in California, will be able to offer a lifeline to people in states that have cut off access to essential care, and be shielded from the draconian laws of those states.”

    Senate Bill 407

    Status: Signed by Newsom on Sept. 23.

    About the bill: SB 407, sponsored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, gives LGBTQ foster youth the right to be placed with foster homes according to their gender identity and with foster families that have received instruction on LGBTQ issues and sensitivity training and have committed to provide a gender-affirming home environment.

    “The foster care system can’t be sure if or when a particular child will ever come out as LGBTQ, but we can ensure that all foster homes are affirming of the kids that do,” Wiener is quoted as saying in a news release issued in April, when the bill passed the Senate Human Services Committee. “These are among the most at-risk children in our society, and we have a moral obligation to make sure they are safe and affirmed at home.”

    Senate Bill 760

    Status: Signed by Newsom on Sept. 23.

    About the bill: SB 760, sponsored by state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, requires all K-12 schools in California to provide access to all-gender bathrooms for students during school hours.

    “Let’s face it — at some point during a typical 8-hour school day, everyone is going to have to go,” Newman is quoted as saying in a news release issued by his office on the introduction of the bill. “By requiring all California K-12 schools to provide gender-inclusive restroom facilities on campus, we’ll ensure the well-being of our LGBTQ+ and non-binary students and ensure safer school communities for everyone.”

    Senate Bill 857

    Status: Signed by Newsom on Sept. 23.

    About the bill: SB 857, sponsored by state Sen. John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, creates an LGBTQ+ advisory task force to research ways to make a safer and more supportive learning environment for LGBTQ students.

    “SB 857 empowers our LGBTQ+ students as school campuses have become a battle ground in the fight for LGBTQ+ dignity and humanity,” Laird is quoted as saying in a news release issued by his office. “These students continue to find themselves caught in the cross fire, lacking the support and resources they need to thrive.”

    House Resolution 57

    Status: Adopted on Sept. 6.

    About the resolution: HR-57, authored by Assemblymember Matt Haney, R-San Francisco, declares August as Trans History Month.

    “I believe that as Californians our strongest defense against the anti-trans agenda is just to tell the truth,” Haney is quoted as saying in a news release issued by his office. “Let’s tell the truth about transgender people’s lives, and let’s lift up the history of the transgender Californians who left their mark on our great state. I couldn’t be more proud to have introduced legislation that will designate August as the first statewide Transgender History month in the nation and I look forward to celebrating every August with this community.”

    More on the California LGBTQ school board culture wars

    Southern California school board meetings now political battlegrounds
    LGBTQ students on new school rules: ‘It’s clear our lives aren’t important’
    Who’s behind transgender policies in Southern California schools?
    What do conflicting judicial decisions mean for parental notification policies?

    ​ Orange County Register