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California: Trans law opponents sue over signature disqualification

Petitioners seek to have referendum calling for law’s repeal on fall ballot

Anti-gay activist Frank Schubert is campaign manager of the coalition challenging California’s trans-protection law. Opponents of the law are suing California’s secretary of state over the invalidation of signatures on petitions aimed at forcing a referendum to repeal the law onto the November ballot. Credit: thinkprogress.org

Opponents of a trans rights law are suing California’s secretary of state over what they allege is the unlawful disqualification of signatures on petitions calling for a fall referendum to repeal the measure.

According to the documents filed, petitioners claim that their rights, as well as those of “disenfranchised registered voters” who signed the petitions, have been infringed, and they seek a court order compelling Secretary of State Debra Bowen to “tally all valid signatures and certify the referendum.” Petitioners claim that more than 17,000 signatures should be deemed valid.

Petitioners allege that Bowen abused her discretion by allowing different standards of review for counting voters’ signatures. “If there are two different but equally viable interpretations of the Election Code by election officials, the Secretary abused her discretion to count the more restrictive interpretation of law as valid, particularly when a more permissible interpretation was also used in another county.”

In August, California Governor Jerry Brown signed off on the School Success and Opportunity Act, aimed at ensuring that transgender students can take part in all school activities, sports teams and programs, as well as access facilities that accord with their gender identity. While the Transgender Law Center and other queer advocacy groups say the law is necessary to ensure that trans students can successfully navigate their school years, Privacy for All Students, the coalition at the forefront of the drive to challenge the measure, claims it will lead to discomfiting encounters among students in bathrooms and locker rooms.

The coalition felt it had submitted more than the required number of signatures to ensure the referendum made it onto the November 2014 ballot, but in February, the office of the secretary of state announced that their bid fell 17,726 valid signatures short of the 504,760 needed to qualify.

PFAS refused to back down, calling for a check of the signatures that were rejected.