(CNSNews.com) – The California Secretary of State’s press office confirmed on Wednesday that Secretary Debra Bowen has given all 58 counties in the state until Feb. 24 to count and verify every signature in a petition campaign to let voters decide whether a law that gives students the right to use facilities and take part in sports and other activities based on their “gender identity” and not their biological sex stands.
Assembly Bill 1266, the School Success and Opportunity Act, was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in August 2013.
The law, which is designed to “protect” transgender students, states, in part, “a pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athlete teams and competition, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”
This means that a male student, for example, can play the girls’ basketball team if he “identifies” as a female and vice versa – if they make said team.
A coalition of parents, students, non-profits and faith groups who oppose the law launched a petition drive, which under California law allows voters to challenge a state law if the secretary of state certifies that the campaign has met or exceeded the 504,760-signature threshold.
Karen England, a spokesperson for Privacy for All Students (PFAS), told CNSNews.com that the group has collected more than 600,000 signatures.
A dispute between PFAS and the secretary of state as to whether the petitions met delivery deadlines was settled by the California Supreme Court last week when it ruled that the secretary had to accept the petitions.
Following a rudimentary count, the secretary on Wednesday ordered a final signature count.
“We believe [the law] is an invasion of privacy,” England told CNSNews.com. “We want to protect the privacy of all students at all times in the public schools.”
“AB1266, the co-ed bathroom law, is a horrible attempt by activists to strip society of all gender roles and uses children as a weapon in their culture war,” National Organization of Marriage (NOM) President Brian Brown said in a statement.
“The National Organization for Marriage fully supports the efforts of the Privacy for All Students coalition to repeal this dangerous law," he said.
“Opening our most vulnerable areas at school including showers, bathrooms and changing rooms to members of the opposite sex is politically-correct madness that risks the privacy and security of our children and grandchildren,” Brown said.
England told CNSNews.com that the law cannot take effect until the referendum process is complete.
But the secretary of state’s press office told CNSNews.com that the law would not be stopped – or stayed – until the secretary certifies the signature count some time around the Feb. 24 deadline.
In the meantime, school districts around the state are taking independent steps to implement the law, according to the California Department of Education, which issued the following statement:
“The Superintendent believes schools exist to serve every student – and a major part of that is making sure they feel safe enough to learn,” the statement said. “The aim is to give all students the same opportunity to succeed.
“The law has already inspired many conversations about student rights, and that’s a good thing,” the statement said. “That said, the legislation doesn’t really specify a role for the California Department of Education, but we’re open to hearing from districts that feel they need assistance.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, has posted on its website lengthy guidelines for staff and other personnel to implement the law, including a list of definitions about gender and sexual orientation.
Gender, for example, is defined as “a person’s actual or perceived sex and includes a person’s gender identity and gender related appearance and behavior whether or not stereotypically associated with the person’s assigned sex at birth.”
“Gender Fluid” is defined as “Persons who do not identify as, or who do not express themselves as, solely male or female” in the guidelines.
The guidelines note “transgender persons may identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual.”
If the law becomes a ballot referendum, Californians will vote for or against it in November 2014, the secretary of state’s press office said.