Wednesday, August 14, 2013

California Passes Transgender Rights Law for Students

On Tuesday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law A.B. 1266, the School Success and Opportunity Act, which requires public schools in that state to respect a student's gender identity for purposes of all activities, including sports participation, and facilities like restrooms and locker rooms.  California is the first state to pass such a law, though Massachusetts, Colorado, and Maine have regulatory policies that require schools to allow students to participate in single-sex programs or use single-sex spaces according to their gender identity, regardless of their sex assigned at birth.

California's law provides important protection to transgender students, who may otherwise be treated differently from other students with the same gender identity, simply because their gender identity is at odds with their birth sex. Arguably, such discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination that is prohibited by Title IX. A recent settlement negotiated by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights suggests that the government may be interpreting Title IX to require schools to regard students in the manner of their gender identities would help clarify this obligation across the states.  But until the Department of Education or the courts clarify that Title IX applies to transgender students who want to be treated just like other members of their affirmed sex, state-level protection like California's will provide the strongest, clearest mandate for the full inclusion of transgender students.