Karen Ocamb

Frank Schubert's Next Target: CA's Trans Student Bill

Filed By Karen Ocamb | September 09, 2013 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: California, Frank Schubert, Jerry Brown, transgender students

jerry_brown.jpgOn Aug. 12, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1266 -- the School Success and Opportunity Act -- authored by openly gay Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and sponsored by EQCA, NCLR, Transgender Law Center, ACLU, GSA Network and Gender Spectrum, among other groups. The bill -- the first of its kind in the nation -- allows trans students equal access to all student activities and facilities. (See more here.)

Openly gay Assembly Speaker John A. PĂ©rez had this reaction after Brown signed the bill:

"I am very pleased the Governor has signed this historic legislation ensuring strong protections for California's transgender students. This is a powerful affirmation of basic human dignity, and puts California at the forefront of leadership on transgender rights. Young transgender Californians should be treated with dignity and respect, and recognized for who they truly are."

The religious conservative Capitol Resource Institute freaked out and has filed for a referendum (see below) under the campaign name Privacy for All Students. The Sacramento-based lobbying group used to be well-funded by right-wing conservatives in the 1990s, but as Democrats became the legislative majority in the state--and as times and attitudes changed--the CRI shrunk in size and importance.

But make no mistake--this anti-trans referendum could become the stealth initiative of 2014, drawing conservative Republican money to try to leverage and regain power in California.

"We respect that some students are struggling with their own sexual identity, but we ask for respect for the other students who will be humiliated when a boy walks into the girl's locker room," said CRI Executive Director Karen England in a press release after filing for the referendum on Aug. 16. "This is a privacy issue, a safety issue and a common sense issue."

frank_schubert.jpgOnce again, it's all about kids, and framing the issue becomes imperative--especially if some rich ultra-conservative funder pays for signature-gatherers. And now it looks like CRI has had an infusion of money from somewhere because the referendum "coalition" has hired former pro-Prop. 8 strategist Frank Schubert (lately the Political Director for the National Organization for Marriage) "to advise the coalition during the referendum qualification phase" and "manage the campaign once it qualifies for the ballot."

Last week posted an essay on the Privacy for All Students website entitled "Why AB 1266 -- The So-Called Transgendered 'Rights' Bill -- Should Be Repealed." He wrote:

"AB 1266 is not really about protecting transgendered students, since we already have laws on the books to do that. Rather, its purpose is to advance an adult political agenda by special interests who wish to use our public schools as a tool to strip gender and gender differences from societal norms. In the process, the privacy and security interests of all students, including those who are transgendered, are compromised.

"Assembly Bill 1266 mandates that students must be given access to sensitive school facilities customarily segregated by sex - showers, bathrooms and locker rooms -- according to a student's 'gender identity' and not based on their actual sex. It also provides that students can join school sports and athletic teams based on gender 'identity' and not actual sex. Under this legislation, a teenage male with his fully developed masculinity may avail himself of the girl's restroom, locker room and shower facilities (and vice versa) regardless of any privacy and safety concerns of other students. It's the only legislation of its kind in the nation."

It's a long essay, but the image of "a teenage male with his fully developed masculinity" availing himself of the girls' facilities will be the one that sticks in the minds of voters.

The theme: "California already prohibits discrimination and bullying against transgender students. This new law enacted by AB 1266 is a poorly drafted, one-size-fits-all solution that lacks any guidelines or safeguards to balance the interests of all students and to protect their privacy. If the coalition is able to collect sufficient signatures to force a vote, this new law is headed for voter rejection."

The campaign hired a mainstream polling organization to also give the group credibility. Perhaps not surprisingly, the poll conducted by SmithJohnson Research showed that 51 percent of voters oppose the trans student law while only 34 percent support it.

"The results of this poll are extremely encouraging, and show that Californians reject the idea that the most private school facilities should be opened to students of the opposite sex based on a claim of gender identity," said England. "Even when read the very biased ballot language written by Attorney General Kamala Harris, a large majority of voters reject it, Most voters surveyed are strongly opposed to this new law." ??

According to a press release:

SmithJohnson Research conducted a telephone survey of 600 randomly-selected California voters from August 26-29, 2013. Approximately 15% of respondents were reached on their cell phone. The sample was drawn from the registered voter pool and every registered voter had an equal chance of being surveyed. The survey's margin of error is less than 4% at the 95% confidence level.

The question wording is based on the Title & Summary crafted by the California Attorney General's office. Wording and results are as follows: ??

"In an upcoming election you will likely have a chance to vote on a referendum that will approve or reject this law [AB 1266] passed by the State Legislature and signed by Governor Brown. Here is the question as it would appear on the ballot:

Referendum to overturn nondiscrimination requirements for school programs and activities. A YES vote approves, and a NO vote rejects legislation that would permit elementary/secondary school students to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with the student's gender identity.

If the election were held today would you likely vote yes to approve the law or no to reject the law?" {PROMPT FOR STRONGLY YES/NO OR SOMEWHAT YES/NO?} ??

Strongly yes to approve............... 22.8%

Somewhat yes to approve.......... 12.6% ??
Total Approve................................ 35.4%

Somewhat no to reject................. 10.6%

Strongly no to reject...................... 40.8% ??
Total Reject.................................... 51.4%

Undecided..................................... 13.3%

After CRI filed the referendum, Equality California's Executive Director John O'Connor issued this statement:

"This is a predictable move by fringe groups that oppose all pro-equality measures and that historically have lacked the capacity to successfully execute similar efforts. AB1266 is an historic civil rights bill ensuring all students have the opportunity to participate and succeed in schools, including transgender students. EQCA and our partners will remain vigilant about monitoring the situation."

Perhaps there is a need for a more proactive approach to counter Schubert and company before they make real headway?

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