A new law in California could dramatically change the way that transgender student athletes in the state are allowed to compete, perhaps setting a new standard for other states.
As reported by the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, CBS News and virtually all other news outlets, California became the first state to formally protect rights for transgender students between kindergarten and the end of high school when Governor Jerry Brown signed state law AB1266. While a student's ability to choose which restroom they use has received the largest amount of attention, two other rights protected in the bill will have a direct impact on California prep sports: the right to choose which locker room a student wants to use and whether they compete in boys or girls sports.
The transgender rights law has received major backing from civil rights organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Lesbians Rights, but has also been attacked by some conservative detractors who fear that the law goes too far in officially sanctioning rights for some students who might receive biological advantages based on which sex they identify with for sporting purposes.
Those doubts have been undercut a bit by the bill's author, Democratic California Assemblyman Carlos Alcala, who cites decade-old policies in both Los Angeles and San Francisco that protect these exact rights. That the state's two largest school districts have enshrined these trangender choices for 10 years without incident is a powerful argument in the bill's support.
So is the status of regulations in Massachusetts and Connecticut, where the Gay-Straight Alliance Network has worked to achieve statewide policies that protect similar rights for transgender students and student athletes. The difference is that California is now becoming the first state to officially codify the rights within a state's educational regulations.
"Clearly, there are some parents who are not going to like it," Alcala told the AP. "We are hopeful school districts will work with them so no students are put in an uncomfortable position."
The new regulations will not formally go into effect until January 1, 2014, a lag of nearly five months that will provide a window of opportunity for critics to file legal action to slow or stop the changes from taking place.
Still, the passage of AB1266 already stands alone as a major breakthrough for transgender rights and a fascinating benchmark for the crusade for equal participatory rights for all student athletes.