A crowd gathered in Hillcrest on Monday evening, February 24, to celebrate what they see as another step toward recognition and equality for transgender people in California and beyond.
Late Monday afternoon, California secretary of state Debra Bowen's office announced that a referendum seeking to block implementation of Assembly Bill 1266 had fallen 17,276 votes short of a threshold that would have required the law — already signed into law by governor Jerry Brown — to be put to a public vote.
Assembly Bill 1266 allows students across the state to participate in sex-segregated activities based on their gender identity, which for a transgender person can differ from their physical sex at birth. Detractors of the law have labeled it the "bathroom bill," expressing fears that teen boys may choose to falsely adopt transgender identities in order to gain access to girls' restroom facilities.
While the LGBTQ activist group Canvass for a Cause and other organizations have been planning a "Day of Decision Rally" for some time, they weren't sure whether to plan for a celebration or protest, as news of the petition tally did not break until shortly before the crowd of 50 or so began to assemble at the corner of Sixth and University avenues.
"We just got news about 15 minutes ago that it's time to celebrate," said Canvass organizer James Messer. "We're all very excited to hear this news — we've worked very hard on the campaign, and with this being the first transgender human-rights bill in the nation, we're hoping that this will cause a ripple effect benefitting transgender students."
Suhaila, a transgender woman, said that she believed fear and ignorance, rather than hate or a desire to oppress, were the real enemies of transgender inequality.
"So often we hear our opposition talking 'in the name of love' or 'in the name of God,' but placing divisions in society act to hinder our love, to hinder our connection to one another," said Suhaila.
Opponents of the bill, meanwhile, say they're not ready to back down.
"We are ready to review and challenge every signature that was not counted toward the referendum of this impudent and in-your-face bill," Brad Dacus, president of the conservative legal group Pacific Justice Institute, told the Los Angeles Times. Over 14,000 of the more than 120,000 votes rejected by the secretary of state came from San Diego County, according to another opponent quoted by the Washington Times.
"It's scary, because they were very close [to succeeding],” said Messer. "But every day we work on changing hearts and minds in the community."