Proposal to limit transgender youth rights fails to qualify for California's November ballot

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 16, 2024: Protesters, some from Socialist Unity Party, others LGBTQIA2-S or human rights activists, chant while protesting across the street from a Protect Kids of California Act of 2024 ballot measure rally at the Glory Church in Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, Mar. 16, 2024. Conservative school board members, pastors and others affiliated with "Save our Children" held the rally and meeting at the downtown L.A. church to rile up their supporters. Parental notification policies generally require educators to inform parents when a student requests to be identified as a gender other than that of the student's biological sex or the gender listed on the birth certificate or any other official records. The group wants to put the issue on the ballot in November. There is already a court fight over such policies in a handful of districts. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times) ATTN: 1424056-me-parental-notification-ballot-measure
LGBTQ+ advocates protest at a rally held in Los Angeles in March to support a ballot measure proposal that would have required schools to notify parents about student gender identity decisions and limited other support for trans youth. (Silvia Razgova/For The Times)

A measure that would have required schools to notify parents about their child's gender identity and limited transgender youth medical care has failed to get enough signatures in support to qualify for the November ballot, proponents said Tuesday.

The proposal sought to notify parents if their child changes their name or pronouns at school or requests to use facilities or play sports that don’t match their gender on official records. It also would have banned California doctors from prescribing hormones or otherwise providing gender-affirming care to minors.

For the measure to qualify for the ballot, proponents had to submit the signatures of more than half a million registered voters by Tuesday, the deadline set by the California secretary of state.

The campaign fell short but gathered more than 400,000 signatures, according to Jonathan Zachreson, a Roseville school board member who was leading the initiative.

"If we had a little more time and a little more money, we would have easily qualified for the ballot," he said.

Read more: Newsom signs bill protecting transgender youths and families fleeing red-state policies

Zachreson said the initiative had the support of tens of thousands of volunteers, with the most signatures collected from counties including Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino.

But the measure was always a political long shot in left-leaning California, home to some of the strongest LGBTQ+ protections in the nation.

The campaign raised $200,000, according to Zachreson, a paltry number in a state where some past ballot measure campaigns have had hundreds of millions of dollars in backing.

Supporters of the measure sought to bring Republican-backed debates over "parental rights" that have been playing out on school boards in conservative pockets of California to the statewide level. California Democrats in turn have fought to thwart gender notification policies considered by several school boards, measures they said are harmful to transgender students who may feel safe at school but not at home.

Last week, Democratic state lawmakers in Sacramento introduced a bill that seeks to ban such school policies and shield teachers from retaliation for supporting transgender students as lawsuits over the issue are pending across the state.

The legislation comes after California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta filed a lawsuit last year against the Chino school district alleging its parental notification policy was discriminatory and violated civil rights and privacy laws.

Bonta also challenged the ballot title of the proposed measure that fell short Tuesday. Last month, a Sacramento Superior Court Judge tentatively sided with Bonta, who titled the measure the “Restrict Rights of Transgender Youth” initiative, while backers wanted to call it the "Protect Kids of California Act.”

Read more: Bonta opens investigation into Chino Valley school district policy to notify parents about LGBTQ+ students

Zachreson said supporters plan to appeal that decision. They will "absolutely" continue to push for similar ballot measures in the future and are now throwing their weight behind opposing the state legislation introduced last week, he said.

They are hoping for the financial support of billionaire Elon Musk, who has criticized healthcare for transgender youth.

LGBTQ+ advocacy groups have warned that parental rights debates over gender identity are harmful to youth who already face high rates of suicide.

“Across the country and here in California, LGBTQ+ young people are under attack from extremist politicians and school boards seeking to ban books, terrorize teachers and make transgender youth afraid to be themselves at school," Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang said in a statement.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.