SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Transgender students would have the right to use public school restrooms and participate on sports teams that correspond with their expressed genders under a bill approved Thursday in the California Assembly.
California law already prevents schools from discriminating against students based on their gender identity, but Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said AB1266 would give transgender students the security and safety they need at school.
It specifies that those students have the right to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities regardless of what gender is listed on their school records.
The Assembly approved AB1266 with a 45-24 vote, sending it to the state Senate for consideration.
Some lawmakers who debated the bill said puberty is a stressful time that could be made more difficult if students who appear to be of a different gender are allowed in locker rooms.
"Because someone is uncomfortable is not a reason to discriminate," replied Ammiano, who is gay. "I can walk into many of your districts and many of your constituents would be uncomfortable with me. ... Sometimes as adults we do project our own insecurities onto an issue."
Supporters say just using the restroom at school can be stressful and humiliating for transgender students, and the legislation would explain to school administrators, teachers and parents that students have a right to participate in sex-segregated programs.
However, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, said the legislation would set a dangerous precedent and schools should instead focus on teaching students to respect each other, "even when they're different."
Donnelly said the bill places the rights of a small group of people ahead of others.
Critics also said some school officials worry they would have to add restrooms or locker rooms, but Ammiano said the legislation does not contain such a requirement.
The bill reflects the accommodations that a number of U.S. schools are being asked to make as Americans start identifying as transgender at younger ages.
The Capitol Resource Institute, a Sacramento-based group that lobbies for religious conservatives, called the legislation a "radical policy" that would force the sharing of bathrooms with the opposite sex.
"AB 1266 mandates San Francisco values on all California schools," Karen England, the group's executive director, said in a written statement.