California’s first lesbian Senate leader could make history again if she runs for governor

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The first time Toni Atkins acted as the governor of California, she used her powers to honor the passing of San Diego Padres baseball player Tony Gwynn while playfully rebuffing Jimmy Kimmel’s advice that she “ invade Oregon. ”

It was 2014, and Atkins — the first lesbian to be the speaker of the state Assembly — was filling in for former Gov. Jerry Brown, a quirk of the California Constitution that requires governors to put someone else in charge whenever they leave the state.

Atkins, now the president pro tempore of the state Senate, has filled in as governor a few more times since then, most recently in July when she signed three bills into law and quipped that she was thrilled to once again step into the governor’s shoes, “ although I have better shoes. ”

Now, the 61-year-old lawmaker is turning her attention once again to the governor’s office — only this time, she’s exploring a much longer stay.

“I’m very interested in looking at that possibility” of running for governor, Atkins told The Associated Press in an interview, saying publicly for the first time what many have assumed since she announced she would step down as the Senate’s top leader next year. “I am looking at it seriously.”

The race to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom will likely be a Democratic free-for-all sure to attract the party’s top talent for the chance to lead the nation’s most populous state and the world’s fifth largest economy. California voters have never elected a woman to the governor’s office, nor a person who is openly LGBTQ. And a host of other Democratic candidates are also vying to make history.

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis was the first to formally announce her candidacy just a few months into Newsom’s second term. Tony Thurmond, the Black state superintendent of public instruction, is also in, along with former Controller Betty Yee. Attorney General Rob Bonta, who is Filipino, has said he is seriously considering a run.

But Atkins is banking on her experience to give her an edge. That includes a brief stint as mayor of San Diego, one of the nation’s largest cities. And it includes becoming just the third person and first woman ever to hold both of the Legislature’s top jobs: speaker of the Assembly and president pro tempore of the Senate, where she negotiated eight state operating budgets and had her hands in countless major policy decisions.

“I sort of feel like I’m addicted to responsibility,” she said. “I think experience counts and matters, and I believe I have experience to continue to contribute in some way.”

California’s top legislative leaders are some of the most powerful people in the state, but it often doesn’t feel like it. While they negotiate major polices, it’s the governor who gets the attention when the deals are done.

That’s especially true for Atkins, who has been a more quiet leader than most. During her tenure as Senate leader, Democrats have grown their caucus to 32 out of 40 seats — their largest majority since 1883. That majority means there is little incentive to work with Republicans. But Atkins made sure Republicans had their bills heard in public hearings and even pushed for former Republican Leader Shannon Grove to be included in briefings with the Newsom administration.

“She always included us and there was never any surprises. I didn’t agree with what was going on, but we had input and participation,” said Grove, who noted she and Atkins bonded over their impoverished upbringing and a shared love of country music icon Dolly Parton. “She understands that we represent a portion of Californians as well and we were duly elected and therefore our voices should be heard.”

Atkins grew up in rural southwest Virginia, where her dad was a miner and her mother was a seamstress. Her childhood home did not have running water, and some of her earliest memories are of walking down a hill with her twin sister to fetch water from a spring to use for cooking and doing laundry.

As a young lesbian in Appalachia, Atkins dreamed of moving to California. She got her chance when her twin sister joined the Navy and was stationed in San Diego. Atkins moved there to help care for her sister’s young son, and never left.

In San Diego, Atkins was director of a women’s health clinic that performed abortions. She was also politically active, working to help elect Christine Kehoe to the San Diego City Council. Kehoe hired Atkins to work for her, and then urged her to run for her seat when Kehoe was elected to the state Assembly.

“Toni is not the kind of person that wants to be the smartest person in the room. She wants to be the most helpful and effective person in the room. And oftentimes she is,” Kehoe said.

Atkins followed her mentor to the state Legislature in 2010, where she soon found herself in a contentious race for speaker against Anthony Rendon of Los Angeles. Atkins won, but left after two years to run for the Senate.

It wasn’t long before Atkins was selected by her colleagues to lead the state Senate, forcing her to work with Rendon, who had replaced her as speaker in the Assembly. Their relationship was rough at times, but fruitful for Democrats. Their partnership expanded Medicaid to include all eligible adults regardless of immigration status and free meals for public school students.

“We had problems, but I think it was, you know, related more to ambition than anything and, you know, probably to an extent immaturity on my part, too,” said Rendon, who plans to run for state treasurer in 2026. “Toni Atkins is a very forgiving person. I have not always been the easiest person to deal with. But she, you know, kept coming back and trying to forge a relationship.”

Click here to read the full article in AP News

CA Funding LGBTQ+ Group Fighting Parental Notification

Over the summer, when a Southern California school board opposed a new state-determined social studies curriculum that included a bio of slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a threatening tweet calling out the school board president by name.

“This isn’t Texas or Florida. In the Golden State, our kids have the freedom to learn,” Newsom tweeted. “Congrats Mr. Komrosky you have our attention. Stay tuned.”

Newsom followed up the vague warning with a far more tangible one. In a subsequent statement, the governor labeled the board’s reluctance to accept the curricula an act of “hate” and announced a $1.5 million fine for what he described as a “willful violation of the law.” He also threatened a lawsuit and a state Justice Department civil rights investigation. 

“Demagogues who whitewash history, censor books, and perpetuate prejudice must never succeed,” Newsom added. “Hate doesn’t belong in our classrooms, and because of the board’s majority’s antics, Temecula has a civil rights investigation to answer for.”

Komrosky and other members of the school board for the Temecula Valley Unified School District were concerned about Milk’s well-documented relationship with a 16-year-old boy when he was in his 30s. He and other board members labeled Milk a “pedophile” and didn’t want his bio included in a supplemental curriculum for certain grade levels. 

After Newsom’s threat of legal action, the school board began to waver. Komrosky called an emergency Friday meeting that stretched late into the night and partially backed down, agreeing to accept the textbooks but putting off a decision on the 4th-grade lessons on civil rights, including the gay rights movement, until the board and parents could review it further.

The confrontation spurred weeks of headlines, with members of the LGBTQ+ community praising the governor’s actions while parents’ rights groups bemoaned the top-down threats from the highest level of state government. 

The Democrat-controlled state legislature last month passed a bill that would legalize hefty state fines for school boards that reject state-determined curricula and other state policies. The state attorney general also sued a different school district in Chino for requiring parents to be notified when their children begin identifying as a different gender in California public schools.

In mid-October, a judge sided, at least temporarily, with the state, and granted a preliminary injunction against the parent notification policy until he makes a final decision.

Over the last several months, the school board clashes have fueled a series of protests and rallies at the state Capitol in which parents, students, pastors, and school board members have accused the Newsom administration and the state legislature of keeping secrets from parents and undermining their ability to care for and oversee their children.

On the other side of the debate are Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, and members of the LGBTQ+ community who argue that the school boards are trying to ban textbooks teaching diversity. They also assert that students in the state public elementary schools who are changing their gender have a right to privacy from their parents who could try to stop them from transitioning – or worse – use physical force as punishment for doing so.

Amid the furor on both sides of the school board controversies, in late August, Newsom announced the latest round of grants to support an effort to combat hate crimes against transgender, Muslim, and black people after the attorney general’s office found a 20% increase in such crimes across the state in 2022.

Among the taxpayer-funded grants is $630,000 to Equality California, an LGBTQ+ group fighting alongside Thurmond against school boards’ parental notification policies and their ability to object to diversity-oriented curricula.

Over the last four years, the state has provided $400 million in federal grants to fund security measures for faith-based organizations and other nonprofits, and $196 million in grants to local organizations focused on preventing hate crimes and supporting survivors. The funding is taking place as the state is running a $31.5 billion budget deficit, up from $22.5 billion projected in January.

The state recently awarded this year’s nearly $91.5 million in “Stop the Hate” grants to more than 170 community groups after at least two disturbing incidents that police say were motivated by anti-LGBTQ+ views and racism.

In August, a San Bernardino store owner was murdered after an argument over a rainbow “pride” flag hanging outside her store, and an Oakland elementary school was evacuated after receiving a bomb threat that police said was racially motivated.

Newsom last week also approved $10 million in funds to boost the presence of police at synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship as tensions have flared over the possibility of local violence stemming from the Israel-Hamas war.

Allowing all places of worship to receive the funds to boost security appears even-handed and proactive at a time of rising tensions and threat levels.

But the “Stop the Hate” grant to Equality California has sparked criticism from opponents that Newsom is inappropriately using state taxpayer funds to assist the top LBGTQ+ organization fighting parents over school board policies.

According to the California Department of Social Services, which issued the grants, the grants “may” fund various services and programs, including those providing mental health and legal services for victims and their families. The website also says funds could go to prevention services, including “arts and cultural work, youth development, senior safety and escort programs, safety planning, training and cross-racial alliance work.”

Equality California has been at the center of the fight for protecting children’s right to change genders without their parents’ knowledge in public schools across the state. The group has fiercely opposed the parental rights movement, labeling it homophobic and transphobic, and argues that notifying parents amounts to “forcibly outing” gender-transitioning children, which could lead to physical or emotional harm for these young people who already experience higher rates of depression, mental health, self-harm, and suicide than their peers.

Equality California staff have attended school board meetings and appeared alongside Thurmond as he answers questions from the press. The group’s staffers were among pro-LGBTQ+ advocates whom a Chino school board removed from a meeting along with Thurmond after he spoke against a proposed district policy that would require schools to inform parents if their students were changing their pronouns or asking to use different gendered facilities.

Because money is fungible, and the grant can help offset costs for the organization’s other work, parental rights advocates have argued that the grant is inappropriately boosting the group’s lobbying efforts opposing parental rights policies at local school boards.

According to its 2021 tax filings with the IRS, the most recent available, Equality California Institute spent more than $400,000 on lobbying the state legislature and received nearly $6 million in revenue for that year alone.

Carl DeMaio, a conservative radio talk show host in California who is gay, was the first to take issue with the Equality California grant in a post on his website, arguing that it was one of several designed to give a financial edge to left-leaning groups, such as Equality California, that actively engage in politics by endorsing candidates and other political activities.

For instance, the group endorsed Thurmond’s reelection last year, lauding him for “personally intervening” in a school board fight in Chino and working “diligently alongside Equality California to counter the attacks against our trans and gender-nonconforming youth, in particular, and we could not ask for a better ally and champion for all California students.” It’s unclear if that endorsement came directly from the Institute or another part of Equality California’s nonprofit organization.

“There’s nothing wrong with these far-left groups engaging in political advocacy. It’s their First Amendment right, but not with my tax dollars,” DeMaio told RealClearPolitics. “This is the oldest scam going on in California politics right now. It’s the utilization of taxpayer money to subsidize Democrat and left-wing political organizations.”

“If the National Rifle Association or the Cato Institute or the Heritage Foundation were receiving taxpayer money, the left and the media would be lighting their hair on fire, but here in California, you have political groups getting money from the government, and no one bats an eye,” he added.  

Equality California spokesman Jorge Reyes Salinas says the Institute does not engage in political work, as DeMaio alleges, and stressed that the entire grant is devoted to supporting the state’s “Stop the Hate” program.

“Equality California Institute’s Stop the Hate program is a tool to ensure that LGBTQ+ Californians know about and have access to culturally responsive resources on hate crimes and bystander intervention,” he said in a statement to RCP. “Through outreach and partnerships, this program aims to advance education on how to curb the sharp increase in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes in California.”

Newsom’s office did not respond to RCP’s inquiries about the grant.

Lance Christensen, a former state legislative staffer who ran for California superintendent of schools as a Republican last year, now serves as the vice president of education policy and government at the conservative California Policy Center. The Center is one of the main groups backing the parental rights policies in school boards across the state. 

Christensen argues that the deck is heavily stacked against his side because parents are already fighting the deep-pocketed teacher unions who back many of the policies parents’ rights groups have tried to fight, including extended COVID school shutdowns that kept students in virtual learning longer than many other states.

On top of that, the leaders of Equality California, which is more ideologically aligned with the Democrats who run the state, “feel like it’s their right and duty to extract money from taxpayers to help amplify their views,” he argued.

“The fact of the matter is, most parents are well aware of the positions these groups have,” he said. “They just aren’t aware that their tax dollars are going to subsidize these activities.” 

Equality California has backed a raft of pro-LGBTQ+ bills that Newsom signed into law in late September, including several measures the governor’s office has said are designed to “better support vulnerable youth.” Among the new laws is one that would require courts to keep all petitions for a change of gender identity in public documents, including those filed by minors, confidential. 

Click here to read the full story in Real Clear Politics

Parents’ Rights Groups March Outside Gavin Newsom’s Fair Oaks Home in ‘War on Children’ rally

The parents’ rights movement found its way to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s sleepy Fair Oaks neighborhood on Saturday morning, where dozens of demonstrators stood outside his home to protest a slate of bills and what they call the “War on Children.”

“Hey, Newsom,” the protesters chanted to the tune of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.” “Leave our kids alone.”

Newsom is currently traveling to China after a brief visit to Israel.

Taylor Hart and Brian Smith, two residents of the neighborhood out for a walk between college football games, shrugged off “the white noise.”

“This started a few years ago when a new neighbor moved in,” Hart said of the Newsom family’s arrival in 2019.

The rally was organized by several parents’ rights groups, including Freedom Angels and Mom Army, as well as Gays Against Groomers and Our Duty, groups that advocate for an end to gender-affirming health care for trans or non-binary minors. A handful of demonstrators wearing black and yellow outfits, and shirts that read, “Kill your local pedophile” — both staples of the far-right Proud Boys movement — also attended.

Speakers at the rally insisted they are part of a non-partisan, apolitical movement — not Republican or right-wing — and that they are not anti-trans or anti-LGBTQ.

“This is not about being anti-trans,” said Denise Aguilar, co-founder of the Freedom Angels. “It’s about children not being able to consent to these types of long-term medical procedures.

“I don’t care what adults do with their lives. You want to be trans? I love you anyways. This is about children being put in a position that’s too age-inappropriate for them.”

Her fellow co-founder, Tara Thornton, said there should be a line at age 18 for medical intervention, even for trans children whose parents affirm their identity. She cited “the science that shows the prefrontal cortex isn’t even fully developed until after 25.”

Protests took place nationwide, but the Sacramento demonstration was specifically in response to Newsom signing three bills into law after the legislative session.

One will allow children ages 12 and older who are enrolled in Medi-Cal to receive outpatient mental health services without the consent of their parents (as is already the case for those private insured). The same bill would also “remove the additional requirement that, in order to consent to mental health treatment or counseling on an outpatient basis, or to residential shelter services, the minor must present a danger of serious physical or mental harm to themselves or to others, or be the alleged victim of incest or child abuse.” This ostensibly gives minors more autonomy in leaving abusive homes.

Thornton said her group opposes the law, AB 665, sponsored by Assemblywoman Wendy Carillo, D-Los Angeles, not because of the equitable mental health care aspect, but because it removes the parent from being involved in important mental health care and safety decisions.

Another bill bars school boards from banning instructional materials or curricula that are deemed inclusive and diverse. A third makes California a “sanctuary state” for non-resident parents who come to California for their kids’ gender-affirming health care.

“He has turned California into a chop shop,” Thornton said, “With our children on the butcher’s table.”

Parents, grandparents and parents’ rights movement allies booed outside the gates of Newsom’s home, carrying such signs as “Transitioning Kids is Child Abuse.”

Members of Gays Against Groomers, Freedom Angels and Mom Army are frequent fixtures at school board meetings, pressuring school board members to take books out of circulation that they deem pornographic or inappropriate for kids.

“Some people thought we went too far going to Gavin Newsom’s house because he has kids,” Aguilar said. “We have kids. Do we feel safe in this state? Do we feel safe sending our children to school?”

The crowd responded with a resounding “no” to both questions.

“We have to take a stand, and that starts now, no matter what kinds of unjust laws are put into place by Gavin. I know he knows we’re here … we’re not going to go away, we’re not doing to let him take our children.”

A small group of counter-protesters, activists who support LGBTQ and abortion rights, marched to the rally, chanting yards away from the demonstrators.

“We’re here today as a counter-protest to drown out the noise,” said Salem Sparrow of Sacramento. Sparrow specifically cited parental notification laws, a handful of which have passed or come up in Sacramento-area school board meetings, which would require school staff to tell a student’s parents if they request to go by a different name or pronoun, or otherwise indicate a gender transition.

“If I had been outed as a trans kid when I was younger, I don’t think I would have survived,” Sparrow said. “My family was very violent, and I don’t think I would be alive today if that had happened to me.

“So I’m here to counter-protest, and make a better future for the next generation, something better than what I got.”

An hour after the rally ended, a caravan of trucks, sedans, Jeeps and motorcycles drove laps around Newsom’s neighborhood, flying full-sized Trump 2024 flags, as demonstrators hooted and hollered in support. Signs that read Women for Trump, Let’s Go Brandon, and FJB (for F— Joe Biden) decorated many of the cars.

“This isn’t about political party,” Thornton had said an hour earlier.

Click here to read the full article in Sacramento Bee via Yahoo News

Judge Blocks California School District Policy to Notify Parents If Their Child Changes Pronouns

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Parts of a controversial Southern California school district policy that require school staff to tell parents if their child asks to change their gender identification will remain halted after a judge granted a preliminary injunction Thursday to block them until a final decision is made in the case.

The ruling by San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Michael A. Sachs, who called portions of the policy unconstitutional, came after another judge temporarily halted the policy in September. California Attorney General Rob Bonta, who filed a lawsuit against the Chino Valley Unified School District in August, said the policy is harmful to transgender and gender-nonconforming students.

“This case is about a policy that is discriminatory,” Delbert Tran, a deputy attorney general representing the state, said at the hearing.

The Chino Valley school board approved the policy over the summer to require school staff — including principals, counselors and teachers — to notify parents in writing within three days of the school finding out their child asks to be identified as a gender different from what is listed on official records. The policy also requires staff to tell parents if their child begins using bathrooms designated for a different gender.

Sachs denied on Thursday the state’s request to block another part of the policy requiring school staff to notify parents if their child asks for information in their student records to be changed.

Emily Rae, a lawyer representing the school district, said at the hearing that parents have the right to know if their child asks to identify as a different gender so that they can better support the child’s needs.

“Chino Valley implemented this policy because it values the role that parents play in the educational process and understands that giving parents access to important information about their children is necessary,” Rae said.

Several other school districts near Chino Valley, which serves roughly 27,000 students, and in other parts of the state have debated or adopted similar policies. Last month, a federal judge blocked a policy at the Escondido Union School District in Southern California that requires staff to refrain from notifying parents if their child identifies as transgender or gender-nonconforming unless the student gives them permission.

School district policies requiring school staff to notify parents of their child’s gender identification change bubbled up after a bill by Republican Assemblymember Bill Essayli, which would have implemented the policy statewide, failed to receive a hearing in the Legislature this year. Essayli then worked with school board members and the California Family Council to help draft the policy that was voted on at Chino Valley.

The lawsuit is part of an ongoing battle between California officials and some local school districts over the rights of parents and LGBTQ+ students. In July, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said at a meeting on the Chino Valley policy that it could pose a risk to students who live in unsafe homes.

In August, the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus planned to announce a bill to somehow combat the policies, but lawmakers decided to hold off for the year. Assemblymember Chris Ward, a Democrat and vice chair of the caucus, said Monday that the outcome of the lawsuit against Chino Valley “will inform the range of possibilities for what we should or shouldn’t do with regard to legislation.”

Click here to read the full article in AP News

How LGBTQ rights and Parental Notification Bills Fared in the California Legislature This Year

Nine bills and a House Resolution functioned as the Legislature’s response to school board culture wars

With school boardrooms becoming a dramatic front in the culture war over LGBTQ students and their privacy, California Gov. Gavin Newsom this fall signed a handful of bills intended to protect such students.

School boards across California have begun debating new policies around transgender and gender non-conforming students and other LGBTQ issues. State lawmakers, meanwhile, engaged in their own debate with nearly a dozen bills in the California Legislature this session directly affecting the LGBTQ community, including one that was the model for many of the proposed school board policies this year.

Newsom had until Oct. 14 to decide the fate of those bills. Here’s a look at how they fared:

Assembly Bill 5

Status: Signed by Newsom on Sept. 23.

About the bill: AB 5, the “Safe and Supportive Schools Act,” sponsored by Assemblymember Rick Zbur, D-Los Angeles, requires the implementation of new “LGBTQ cultural competency training” for teachers and school staff in California.

“AB 5 is the product of nearly a decade of advocacy that reflects the fact that LGBTQ+ students face higher dropout rates, rates of homelessness, and suicidal ideation, and we know that if a student is facing bullying in school, hostility in their community, or lack of a supportive home environment, the person they’re most likely to turn to is a school teacher or school counselor,” Zbur is quoted as saying in a news release. “This bill aims at helping these vulnerable students by giving teachers and school staff the tools and training they need to give these kids a shot at success.”

Assembly Bill 223

Status: Signed by Newsom on Sept. 23. The law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024.

About the bill: AB 223, the “Transgender Youth Privacy Act,” sponsored by Assemblymember Christopher Ward, D-San Diego, requires courts to seal any petition by minors to legally change their gender or sex identification, in order to protect their privacy. Parent authorization would not be needed to change the vital records of a non-emancipated minor.

“At a time when many of our public documents have become digitized and easily accessible by those who would do transgender youth harm, AB 223 will allow transgender youth the ability to share their personal information with whoever they wish when they are ready to disclose it,” Ward is quoted as saying in a news release. “The Transgender Youth Privacy Act protects these youth from being bullied so they can navigate their daily lives as themselves.”

Assembly Bill 957

Status: Vetoed by Newsom on Sept. 22.

About the bill: AB 957, sponsored by Assemblymember Lori Wilson, D-Suisun City, would have required the court to consider whether a parent affirms their child’s gender identity in order to be granted custody or visitation rights. In his veto statement, Newsom cautioned against dictating legal standards, saying such efforts could be used to undermine civil rights in vulnerable communities. Courts already have the ability to factor in whether a parent affirms a child’s gender identity when determining what is best for a child, Newsom wrote in his veto.

“I’ve been disheartened over the last few years as I watched the rising hate and heard the vitriol toward the trans community,” Wilson wrote on Twitter. “My intent with this bill was to give them a voice, particularly in the family court system where a non-affirming parent could have a detrimental impact on the mental health and well-being of a child.”

Assembly Bill 1078

Status: Signed by Newsom on Sept. 25. The new law took effect immediately.

About the bill: AB 1078, the “Safe Place to Learn Act,” sponsored by Corey Jackson, D-Perris, requires the state Board of Education to develop a policy that local education agencies, including school districts, must follow before removing any instructional materials, abandoning any curriculum or removing any books from school libraries.

Agencies must get state Board of Education approval for any such removals from the curriculum or the library, or face fines, according to the bill. New instructional materials must also “accurately portray the cultural and racial diversity of our society,” including LGBTQ Americans, people with disabilities and members of other ethnic and cultural groups. New instructional material must also include “proportional and accurate representation of California’s diversity,” including by race, gender, socioeconomic status, religion and sexuality.

Jackson sponsored the bill after Temecula Valley Unified made national headlines when it tried to ban a social studies curriculum that briefly touched on assassinated LGBTQ civil rights icon Harvey Milkdrawing the ire of Newsom and California Attorney General Rob Bonta.

“It is the responsibility of every generation to continue the fight for civil and human rights against those who seek to take them away. Today, California has met this historical imperative, and we will be ready to meet the next one,” Jackson is quoted as saying in a news release issued by his office.

California is the second state in the nation to pass a book-banning ban. Illinois passed a similar law in June.

Assembly Bill 1314

Status: Died in committee.

About the bill: AB 1314, the bill that has inspired new school board policies around California, sponsored by Assemblymember Bill Essayli, R-Corona, would have required school districts to notify parents in writing within three days of their child declaring that they did not wish to identify by their birth sex. AB 1314 died without getting a hearing in education committee, a preliminary step before being heard by the entire Assembly.

Essayli blasted the decision in a news release.

The decision to deny the bill a hearing “is symbolic of where Sacramento Democrats stand on parental rights,” Essayli is quoted as saying in the release. “They believe the government owns our children and that parents do not have a right to know what is happening with their own children at school.”

Although the bill died, it lived on in the form of school board measures across California, including in Chino ValleyMurrietta ValleyOrange Unified and Temecula Valley. The policies — and policies that forbid districts from notifying parents when their child declares they do not wish to identify by their birth sex — are making their way through the courts.

proposed November 2024 ballot measure would enshrine a version of AB 1314 into the state Constitution, should it pass. As of Oct. 13, advocates for the ballot measure have not yet begun collecting the 546,651 signatures from California registered voters — equal to 5% of all ballots cast in the 2022 gubernatorial ballot — needed to qualify for the 2024 ballot.

Assembly Bill 1432

Status: Vetoed by Newsom on Oct. 7.

About the bill: AB 1432, sponsored by Assemblymember Wendy Carillo, D-Los Angeles, would have required out-of-state healthcare insurance providers who provide coverage to California residents to comply with the state’s constitutional amendment that makes abortion and gender-affirming care a right. The bill was intended to prevent insurance companies headquartered in other states from denying such care.

In his veto statement, the governor wrote that “it is not evident that out-of-state health insurance plans serving Californians do not already cover this care. Further, though well intentioned, this bill could invite litigation where an adverse ruling would outweigh a potential benefit.”

Senate Bill 345

Status: Signed by Newsom on Sept. 27.

About the bill: SB 345, sponsored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D–Berkeley, helps protect insurance providers against the enforcement of other states’ laws that criminalize or limit reproductive health care services or gender-affirming health care.

“An estimated 36 million women of child-bearing age now live in states that have outlawed abortion,” Skinner is quoted as saying in a news release issued by her office. “There’s also an alarming movement of states criminalizing gender-affirming care. With Gov. Newsom’s signing of SB 345, health care providers, physically located in California, will be able to offer a lifeline to people in states that have cut off access to essential care, and be shielded from the draconian laws of those states.”

Senate Bill 407

Status: Signed by Newsom on Sept. 23.

About the bill: SB 407, sponsored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, gives LGBTQ foster youth the right to be placed with foster homes according to their gender identity and with foster families that have received instruction on LGBTQ issues and sensitivity training and have committed to provide a gender-affirming home environment.

“The foster care system can’t be sure if or when a particular child will ever come out as LGBTQ, but we can ensure that all foster homes are affirming of the kids that do,” Wiener is quoted as saying in a news release issued in April, when the bill passed the Senate Human Services Committee. “These are among the most at-risk children in our society, and we have a moral obligation to make sure they are safe and affirmed at home.”

Senate Bill 760

Status: Signed by Newsom on Sept. 23.

About the bill: SB 760, sponsored by state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, requires all K-12 schools in California to provide access to all-gender bathrooms for students during school hours.

“Let’s face it — at some point during a typical 8-hour school day, everyone is going to have to go,” Newman is quoted as saying in a news release issued by his office on the introduction of the bill. “By requiring all California K-12 schools to provide gender-inclusive restroom facilities on campus, we’ll ensure the well-being of our LGBTQ+ and non-binary students and ensure safer school communities for everyone.”

Senate Bill 857

Status: Signed by Newsom on Sept. 23.

About the bill: SB 857, sponsored by state Sen. John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, creates an LGBTQ+ advisory task force to research ways to make a safer and more supportive learning environment for LGBTQ students.

“SB 857 empowers our LGBTQ+ students as school campuses have become a battle ground in the fight for LGBTQ+ dignity and humanity,” Laird is quoted as saying in a news release issued by his office. “These students continue to find themselves caught in the cross fire, lacking the support and resources they need to thrive.”

House Resolution 57

Status: Adopted on Sept. 6.

About the resolution: HR-57, authored by Assemblymember Matt Haney, R-San Francisco, declares August as Trans History Month.

Click here to read the entire article in the Sun

California Becomes the First State to Mandate Gender-Neutral Bathrooms In Schools by 2026

Governor Newsom signed the bill alongside a flurry of others supporting LGBTQ+ Californians over the weekend.

Public schools across California will be required to have gender-neutral bathrooms by July 2026, adding another layer of protections for the state’s LGBTQ+ students.

Although some cities and school districts across the country have added gender-neutral bathrooms, the bill Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law on Saturday makes the Golden State the first to require it in schools statewide.

The legislation was among a trio of bills supporting LGBTQ+ youth that became law in recent days, including a new requirement for schools to provide “cultural competency” training to staff members on LGBTQ+ issues, and the creation of a task force that will identify LGBTQ+ students’ needs across the state and push forward initiatives to support them.

“California is proud to have some of the most robust laws in the nation when it comes to protecting and supporting our LGBTQ+ community, and we’re committed to the ongoing work to create safer, more inclusive spaces for all Californians,” Newsom said in a statement. “These measures will help protect vulnerable youth, promote acceptance, and create more supportive environments in our schools and communities.”

The bills passed in the midst of the country’s educational culture wars, where LGBTQ+ issues have increasingly become a target.

Eight states — Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Idaho and North Dakota — ban transgender students from using their preferred bathrooms and facilities in K-12 schools, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a think tank that tracks LGBTQ+ policies and data nationwide. Florida takes such policies one step further, making it a criminal offense for transgender people to use bathrooms that differ from their sex assigned at birth.

California’s new law has its roots in such an effort. In 2021, the Chino Valley Unified school board introduced a resolution to bar transgender students from accessing their preferred bathrooms — a move that was soon criticized by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who warned the district that its attempt clashed with state law.

That resolution ended up failing. And in its wake, Thurmond joined the bathroom bill’s author, Sen. Josh Newman, a Fullerton Democrat, as a sponsor.

“This didn’t seem like a matter of anything more than basic fairness and equity,” Newman said. “My hope is that this bill makes life just a little bit easier during a time of life that’s hard for everybody, but especially hard for young people going through all of the issues and processes involved with finding oneself.”

Newman said that in the lead-up to writing the bill, he heard countless testimonies from students who — worried about being bullied or called out by another student or staff member — didn’t use the bathroom for the entire school day. He heard stories of urinary tract infections and severe anxiety. And all the while, school boards across the state roiled over who should be allowed to use which bathrooms, locker rooms and school facilities.

“From seventh through ninth grade, I avoided using the bathroom at my school,” a high school student told the state’s Safe School Bathroom Ad Hoc Committee, a group created by the California Department of Education in 2021. The student, who is referred to as Sam, spoke in a February 2023 news release published by Newman’s office. The only all-gender restroom at my school was exclusively for teachers, was kept locked, and was located behind the desks of administrative staff. To use that restroom, I would have had to come out as transgender to the faculty — something I was not ready to do.”

Though California schools were previously required to give students access to the restrooms they prefer, they were not mandated to provide gender-neutral facilities. This new bill changes that, requiring all school districts, county offices of education, and charter networks to have at least one gender-neutral restroom at each school site.

People across the country are divided on the issue, with 31% of Americans opposed to laws that would require transgender individuals to use public restrooms that match the gender they were assigned at birth, according to a 2022 survey by the Pew Research Center. And while 28% of Americans neither support nor oppose such policies, 41% are in favor of them.

Click here to read the full article in the Mercury News

Gavin Newsom signs California LGBTQ laws after angering advocates with transgender bill veto

California Gov. Gavin Newsom during the weekend seemed to strategically sign a package of pro-LGBTQ legislation a day after outraging advocates and lawmakers from that community.

Newsom on Friday vetoed Assembly Bill 957 from Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, D-Suisun City, which would have directed judges to consider parents’ acceptance of children’s gender identities in custody disputes.

The governor explained his decision with concern about lawmakers creating legal standards “in prescriptive terms that single out one characteristic.”

“Other-minded elected officials, in California and other states, could very well use this strategy to diminish the civil rights of vulnerable communities,” Newsom wrote.

But LGBTQ lawmakers were upset by the decision, with Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, calling it “a tragedy for trans kids here and around the country.”

The California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus said in a statement the veto was a “missed opportunity to remind the nation that California is a safe haven for transgender and nonbinary children.”

Newsom on Saturday night then signed a package of bills focused on supporting the LGTBQ community. The governor said in a statement he is “committed to the ongoing work to create safer, more inclusive spaces for all Californians.”

“These measures will help protect vulnerable youth, promote acceptance, and create more supportive environments in our schools and communities,” Newsom said.

The following bills were part of the package the governor signed on Saturday:

  • Assembly Bill 5, which sets deadlines for school teachers and staff to undergo LGBTQ cultural competency training.
  • Assembly Bill 223, which makes minors’ court petitions to change their sex and gender identifiers confidential.
  • Senate Bill 760, which requires public schools to have at least one all-gender restroom.
  • Senate Bill 857, which requires the state to convene a task force to identify the needs of LGBTQ students and implement supportive policies.
  • NEWSOM RIPS FEDERAL JUDGE OVER LATEST GUN DECISION

Newsom isn’t shy in sharing what he thinks of federal Judge Roger Benitez, the Southern California-based President George W. Bush appointee known for his fiery legal opinions in favor of the Second Amendment.

The governor has called Benitez “a stone cold ideologue” who is “a wholly owned subsidiary of the gun lobby and the National Rifle Association.” So when Benitez ruled Friday — for the second time — that California’s ban on ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds is unconstitutional, Newsom was quick to issue a statement noting the timing of the decision.

“Unsurprisingly, Judge Benitez chose to issue this radical decision on the same day President Biden announced his new Office of Gun Violence Prevention. As a reminder, this is the same judge who used Gun Violence Awareness Day to strike down California’s assault weapons ban — comparing the AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife,” Newsom said in the statement. “Judge Benitez is not even pretending anymore.

This is politics, pure and simple.” Newsom then pivoted toward advocating for his proposed amendment to enshrine gun control measures in the U.S. Constitution.

“It doesn’t matter what laws we pass. It doesn’t matter what the voters decide. Concealed carry. Banning weapons of war. Reasonable waiting periods. Background checks. The ideologues are coming for all of them,” Newsom said.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Clarence Thomas should have resigned the moment Anita Hill testified. That was true then, and it’s true now. He has proven — over and over again — that he is unfit to serve on our highest court. Thomas must step down. And Congress must institute a code of ethics for SCOTUS. Now.” — Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, discussing ProPublica’s revelation that Justice Clarence Thomas secretly participated in Koch network donor events, via Threads.

Best of The Bee:

A federal judge with a penchant for fiery rulings and strong leanings toward the Second Amendment issued an injunction Friday on California’s ban on ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds, the latest ruling in the now 6-year-old legal challenge, via Andrew Sheeler.

Sacramento County District Attorney Thien Ho this week filed a high-profile civil lawsuit against the city of Sacramento regarding homeless camps, but it’s unclear when a judge will actually make a ruling, via Theresa Clift.

Click here to read the full article in the Sacramento Bee

Newsom Vetoes Controversial Gender-Identity Bill in California

Deviating from his past legislative support of transgender youth in California, Democratic governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have required parents to demonstrate affirmation of their child’s gender identity in custody court battles.

Under California Bill AB957, judges would have been legally obligated to specifically consider whether parents have affirmed their child’s gender identity or gender expression in determining “the health, safety, and welfare of the child.” The California State Assembly passed the bill along strictly party lines earlier this month, hoping to advance transgender rights in the state.

Newsom said in a statement late Friday night he appreciates “the passion and values” of Democratic assembly member Lori Wilson for authoring the bill but disclosed he couldn’t sign it.

“I share a deep commitment to advancing the rights of transgender Californians, an effort that has guided my decisions through many decades in public office,” Newsom wrote.

“That said, I urge caution when the Executive and Legislative branches of state government attempt to dictate – in prescriptive terms that single out one characteristic – legal standards for the Judicial branch to apply,” he added. “Other-minded elected officials, in California and other states, could very well use this strategy to diminish the civil rights of vulnerable communities.”

Nonetheless, the California governor noted judges are still “required to consider a child’s health, safety, and welfare” in the context of their gender identity when hearing out parents in child custody cases, even if the bill wasn’t signed.

“Moreover, a court, under existing law, is required to consider a child’s health,
safety, and welfare when determining the best interests of a child in these
proceedings, including the parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity,” he concluded.

Following the governor’s veto, Wilson expressed her disappointment with the decision.

“I am extremely disappointed. I know the Governor’s record. He’s been a champion for the LGBTQ+ community for years and even before it was popular to do so,” Wilson said in a statement. “However, on this point, the Governor and I disagree on the best way to protect [Transgender, Gender-Diverse and Intersex] kids.”

She added her bill was intended “to give [the trans community] a voice, particularly in the family court system where a non-affirming parent could have a detrimental impact on the mental health and well-being of a child.”

Democratic state senator Scott Wiener, who co-authored the bill, also called out Newsom for rejecting it.

“This veto is a tragedy for trans kids here & around the country,” Wiener posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “These kids are living in fear, with right wing politicians working to out them, deny them health care, ban them from sports & restrooms & erase their humanity. CA needs to unequivocally stand with these kids.”

“Governor Newsom has been such a staunch ally to the LGBTQ community. A true champion. Respectfully, however, this veto is a mistake,” he continued.

Click here to read the full article in the National Review

Transgender Rights Activists Protest Women’s Liberation Group Convention in SF

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — There was a heated protest Saturday in San Francisco where opinions clashed over the issue of Transgender rights.

At the demonstration, outside a hotel where a women’s rights group is holding its convention, protesters say the organization is anti-Trans rights.

“What do we want? Trans justice. When do we want it? Now,” protesters chanted.

A group of demonstrators protested outside the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco’s Financial District, where Women’s Declaration International USA is holding its convention. “WDI” says it’s focused on reigniting the Women’s Liberation Movement, but critics say that’s misleading.

MORE: Chaos at Sunol Glen school board meeting as district votes to ban pride flags

“Their group is what we call ‘TERFs,’ Trans-exclusionary radical feminists,” said Nancy Kato from Reproductive Justice Coalition.

Activist Kato says she believes WDI’s mission is anti-Trans.

“Their basic premise is patriarchy and men are the enemy and therefore focused on Trans women, to say they are not real women,” Kato.

“I’m so happy to see so many people standing in solidarity with the Trans community,” said Honey Mahogany.

MORE: Judge issues temporary restraining order over Chino school board policy on transgender notification

Honey Mahogany, chair of San Francisco’s Democatic Party says WDI is contributing to the spread of misinformation.

“Ultimately, what I’m here to fight today is the misinformation about my community. We are people who have always existed, always been a part of society,” Mahogany said.

Police intervened when several counter protesters attending the women’s conference showed up, including Corrina D’Annible.

“What specific rights are Trans-identified individuals asking for that they don’t already have to begin with? So if we’re talking about the right for males to invade women’s spaces, like I said, the history of male violence is long and storied,” D’Annible said.

MORE: ‘Experience Queer Joy’: SF Pride Parade showcases unity, inclusion and visibility

WDI conference organizers declined an on-camera interview but told us in a statement they do not support counter protesters.

The WDI’S statement went on to say: “We are enjoying our discussions about the rights, privacy and safety of women and girls, including reproductive liberty and the rights of lesbian and bisexual women.”

Protesters called out the Hilton for hosting the conference.

In response, Hotel management told ABC7 News, “As a place of hospitality, the Hilton San Francisco Financial District Hotel strives to serve as a welcoming place for all and does not adopt or endorse the views of any individuals or groups we serve.”

WDI says it’s planning its own rally Monday at San Francisco City Hall. Protesters say they’ll be there.

“San Francisco and the Bay Area, there’s a lot of people who believe the need to build inclusive movements, not exclusive ones,” Kato said.

Click here to read the full article at ABC 7 News

Temecula Board OKs Policy Banning Pride Flags From Schools

Only U.S., California flags allowed unless a banner is used “solely for educational purposes”

The Temecula school board approved a policy to limit which flags can be flown on school property, a rule that some said is a way to ban pride flags, at its Tuesday night, Sept. 12, meeting.

similar policy was adopted by the Chino Valley Unified School District board in June.

The item passed 3-2, with the board’s conservative majority in favor and trustees Allison Barclay and Steven Schwartz voting no.

Tuesday’s Temecula Valley Unified School District board meeting drew a crowd similar in size to the one several weeks ago, when the board adopted a policy to inform parents if their child is transgender.

The proposal, which was adopted with some small language changes, contains two alterations to the district’s flag protocols.

The first is an addition to Pledge of Allegiance guidelines, which states that students not reciting the pledge “shall maintain a respectful silence.”

The second reads: “No flag other than the United States of America and State of California may be displayed on school grounds, including classrooms, unless it is a country, state, or United States military flag used solely for educational purposes within the adopted curriculum.”

Other flags would need the superintendent’s approval.

The document does not specify which flags are barred.

“It is not the intent of the Board of Education to deprive any person of his or her right to freedom of expression,” the agenda item states. “The intent of this regulation is to maintain a safe and orderly workplace for teachers, students, administrators, staff, parents/guardians and other members of the community.”

More than 100 people waited outside before the meeting’s open session. Some had American flags on their clothing. A few wore Donald Trump merchandise. Others sported pride flags.

Jennifer San Nicolas, a Temecula resident with two teenagers in Temecula Valley schools, said she’s concerned about board decisions she said remove diversity, equity and inclusion programs and cited December’s critical race theory ban — approved at the first meeting of the board’s conservative Christian bloc elected by voters — as an example.

“It’s just unreal, they way that they are chipping away at the humanity of kids of color, kids on the LGBTQ spectrum, anyone who isn’t their White evangelical, in their church — they other them.”

Murrieta resident Jen Reeves called the flag policy “worrisome.”

“I feel like it removes self-expression, and any sort of ability for teachers to say, ‘Hey, you’re welcome here, and we do support you, and we love you, and we want you here’,” Reeves said.

She said she believes the Temecula school board is following the agenda of other boards that have passed similar policies.

Ryan Waroff, who lives in the school district, said he supports the proposed flag policy.

Any flag can create a sense of division, Waroff said, “and I think that’s a problem we have in this country right now.”

In response to concerns about a ban on pride flags obscuring people’s identities, he said, “if you walk into a place and it takes a flag for you to feel comfortable about yourself, then we have a bigger problem than that.”

Waroff said people should be able to express their identities in any way they feel necessary, and maybe at one point, such flags were a good idea, but they’ve become politicized.

“And it is both sides,” he said. “It is a Trump flag. It is a pride flag. It is a BLM flag.”

“This isn’t anti-LGBTQ, this isn’t anti-trans,” he said. “We live in America, and in America, we’re allowed to be whatever we want, but let’s unite under the one unifying goal, that’s ‘We’re all Americans.’ I would like to see us come back to that.”

Daniel Molina spoke in favor of the policy, saying that “there is no pride flag” without also standing for the American flag.

Josh Schierling asked: “How delicate is your sense of democracy that it’s threatened by a pride flag?”

Schierling said everyone should be allowed to coexist, and that “taking down a pride flag is telling people they’re not wanted. How un-American is that?”

Board members discussed reasons for the policy, and potential pitfalls, including the definition of the word “flag.”

Danny Gonzalez said he thought the administration needed more time to work on the policy, and saw it “being potentially problematic” if not done the right way.

Schwartz said the “good intentions” behind the policy would open the district up to problems. He read aloud concerns of people who wrote to him, including that the policy “is an attempt to censor LGBTQ support” and that, according to the policy, flags for entities like colleges wouldn’t be allowed.

Barclay agreed that “a lot of things aren’t clear.”

She said that, if there’s a certain flag in question, “let’s just say it.”

Barclay said such policies make people nervous.

“They don’t want to break the rules, but they don’t understand the rules,” she said.

Board President Joseph Komrosky said that a school visit during which there were “at least 10 classrooms” that had no American flags showed him that the district needed the regulation. He  said he wants to “instruct the superintendent to add U.S. flags to every single classroom.”

Regarding flags for colleges and school sports teams, board members discussed whether they counted as “educational,” and whether, according to the policy, the superintendent would need to approve each one. Komrosky said that would be the case.

The meeting featured outbursts, applause and other interruptions from audience members. At least one person was removed, and some reacted to comments by holding up red, yellow and green cards, which Komrosky has done at previous meetings to convey warnings to audience members. At different points, both Schwartz and Komrosky asked for spectators’ cooperation.

“This would go a lot easier with no audience in here,” Komrosky said.

Other politically charged topics have been reviewed by the Temecula Valley school board in the past year.

After December’s critical race theory ban, a social studies curriculum was rejected by the board after some members cited its mention of slain gay-rights activist Harvey Milk in supplemental materials. After pushback from Gov. Gavin Newsom and others, the curriculum was approved in July — except for the unit mentioning Milk.

Last month, the board approved the transgender notification policy that some opposed because they felt it puts transgender students at risk by outing them. Such a policy also was previously approved by the Chino Valley school board.

Click here to read the full article in the Press Enterprise