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Proposed gender identity measure fails to qualify for California ballot

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Californians won’t be voting this November on a policy that would have required schools to notify parents if their child asks to change their gender identification.

Proponents of a ballot measure to create such a statewide policy announced Tuesday they failed to collect enough signatures to put the measure before voters this fall. They said it would have provided necessary transparency for parents. But opponents said it could have threatened the safety of children who don’t live in welcoming households.

So-called parental notification policies have been a flashpoint in some California school districts this year, leading to legal battles with the state.

Proponents of the measure had sued Attorney General Rob Bonta over the title and summary he issued for the proposed ballot measure, arguing it was biased and made it harder for them to collect signatures. Bonta titled the measure the “Restrict Rights of Transgender Youth” initiative, but backers wanted it changed to the “Protect Kids of California Act.” They also wanted the summary updated.

“While we are disappointed we didn’t meet the threshold to qualify for the ballot, we are encouraged by the amount of support from every sector of the state,” campaign organizer Jonathan Zachreson said in a statement.

The proposed initiative would have also banned transgender girls in grades 7 through college from participating in girls’ and women’s sports, along with barring gender-affirming surgeries for minors, with some exceptions.

The campaign gathered about 400,000 of the 546,651 signatures needed to place it on the ballot, Zachreson said. Many of those signatures came from Southern California counties including Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside, he said.

A Sacramento Superior Court judge sided with Bonta after a hearing last month, saying his description of the proposal was accurate. Proponents of the measure plan to appeal, Zachreson said. If successful, they hope it would allow them to reopen the signature-gathering process for another shot at making the ballot.

At the state Legislature, lawmakers announced a bill last week that would ban school districts from adopting policies that require parents to be notified of a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity, with some exceptions including if the student’s safety is at risk.

It is part of a nationwide debate over local school districts and the rights of parents and LGBTQ+ students. States across the country have sought to impose bans on gender-affirming care, bar trans athletes from girls and women’s sports, and require schools to “out” trans and nonbinary students to their parents. Some lawmakers in other states have introduced bills in their legislatures with broad language requiring that parents be notified of any changes to their child’s emotional health or well-being.

Associated Press

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