California Ballot Petition Seeking To Roll Back State’s Transgender Agenda Gains Traction

‘If we are successful in California, it’s going to completely change the direction and conversation on this issue across the country,’ one of the petition’s organizers tells the Sun.

AP/Rich Pedroncelli, file
California passed legislation this year providing legal refuge to displaced transgender youth and their families. AP/Rich Pedroncelli, file

A ballot petition gaining traction in California has the potential to repeal significant transgender legislation in the Golden State and, if successful, could signal to the Democratic party that it’s out of touch with voters on transgender issues. 

The three-part initiative, put forward by a group called Protect Kids California, would “require schools notify parents when their child wants to socially transition in school settings,” as well as ensure “girls’ athletic programs are for female athletes only,” and “prevent child sterilization by prohibiting puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, or transgender surgeries on minors.” 

LGBTQ groups in California say they are “monitoring” the petition, and criticism of the initiative includes a scathing editorial by Los Angeles Times, which said the petition would “do away” with the rights of transgender youth and “all of that enlightened stuff, making California more like Florida or Tennessee.”

Yet the petition, which was cleared to collect signatures at the end of November, has already had thousands of downloads, Protect Kids California’s co-founder, Jonathan Zachreson, told the Sun. 

“In California, we’re kind of the central point where a lot of these horrible policies relating to youth and gender dysphoria are happening,” Mr. Zachreson said, referring to a bill earlier this year that — if not for Governor Newsom’s veto — would have required courts to consider parents’ support of their children’s gender identity when deciding custody, among other legislation. 

Recent polling suggests nearly 70 percent of California voters oppose schools keeping gender identity information secret from parents. That polling information, along with other polls indicating a “disconnect” between voters and state legislators, Mr. Zachreson said, was “the impetus for starting these initiatives.” 

The state attorney general’s office — responsible for titling the petition —  named it the “Restricts Rights of Transgender Youth” initiative, language that Mr. Zachreson said his group is considering suing over ahead of the initiative even making it on the ballot. 

“Just take a look at the LA Times opinion piece, for example. I think that’s evidence to suggest it’s tampering with the process,” he said, adding that the initiative is “not restricting” rights but rather is “protecting them.” 

“It’s protecting parental rights to know what’s going on with their kids at school,” Mr. Zachreson said. “It’s protecting the rights of female athletes and students for their privacy. And it’s protecting the rights of children to be able to keep their private parts and be able to grow into adults to be able to healthily reproduce.” 

The attorney general’s office told the Sun that it can’t comment on particular initiatives but that it takes its responsibility seriously under California law to issue “official titles and summaries describing the chief purpose and points of every proposed initiative submitted in compliance with procedural requirements.” 

 If the petition is a success in California, Mr. Zachreson said he hopes it will send a message to the rest of the country, especially Democrat politicians. 

“If we are successful in California, it’s going to completely change the direction and conversation on this issue across the country and probably internationally as well,” he said. 

Equality California, which describes itself as “the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization” told the Sun it is “carefully monitoring” the issue. 

“It’s extremely awful and it’s terrible that we’re going into 2024 and there are folks here in California that continue to demonize LGBTQ+ youth,” the group’s communications director, Jorge Reyes Salinas, said, adding that “these are very dangerous times and very scary times.”

“We know that none of this hate and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric has a place here in California, especially knowing that 69 percent of Americans at-large support the LGBTQ+ community,” he said. “We’re working with community partners hoping that this awful side of history doesn’t happen and that people don’t get the signatures that they’re trying to get.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Newsom has faced backlash over a bill — which he signed back in 2021 but is set to go into effect on January 1, 2024 — that will require some retailers to have gender-neutral toy sections. Stores with more than 500 employees statewide that offer “childcare items or toys for sale shall maintain a gender neutral section or area,” the legislation mandates, or the retailer will face up to a $500 fine.

“Keeping similar items that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys separated makes it more difficult for the consumer to compare the products and incorrectly implies that their use by one gender is inappropriate,” the legislation states.

A representative from Mr. Newsom’s office was not immediately reachable for comment.

The New York Sun

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