A coalition of leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and allied organizations has formed to battle a proposed ballot initiative targeting California’s transgender community.
The coalition consists of the American Civil Liberties Union of California, Equality California, the Human Rights Campaign, Los Angeles LGBT Center, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and Transgender Law Center, as well as a steering committee of organizations representing diverse communities throughout California. Attorney General Kamala Harris today issued a title and ballot summary for the bathroom policing initiative, named “Limits on Use of Facilities in Government Buildings and Businesses,” which would prohibit transgender people from using facilities in government buildings and require the government to monitor bathroom use. The law would also allow anyone offended by the presence of an individual in a restroom to sue that person for a $4,000 in damages, as well as attorney’s fees.
“All Californians should have the same freedom to go about their lives and access government buildings without having their privacy invaded or being forced to undergo invasive examination simply to use a public restroom,” said Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center. “The bathroom policing initiative would unfairly single out transgender people and people who don’t meet stereotypes of what it looks like to be male or female for interrogation and exclusion.”
“Privacy for All” is the same group that previously unsuccessfully attempted to overturn AB 1266. The group is backed by the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute, a right-wing legal organization.
“Our opponents clearly have a taste for irony,” said Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California. “Why else would they include ‘privacy’ in the name of their organization that seeks to invade the most basic dignity of the transgender community – or really, of anyone who doesn’t match subjective standards of masculinity or femininity? This initiative has no safeguards about who does the interrogating or how an individual would prove their identity. It’s a recipe for harassment.”
Right-wing activists have increasingly targeted the transgender community for discrimination, proposing a spate of bills and initiatives across the country that would prohibit transgender people from using public bathrooms and otherwise participating in public life.
The bathroom policing initiative goes even farther than efforts in other states or previous California ballot proposals, potentially allowing anyone to sue an individual whose gender expression they found offensive in a restroom. Government analysts say the measure could cost California millions of dollars every year in legal expenses and lost federal funding.
The initiative also includes language authorizing businesses to exclude individuals from facilities for not looking masculine or feminine enough, and preventing individuals from bringing legal action to enforce discrimination laws. The provision in effect could lead to exclusion based on gender altogether from facilities in those establishments with no legal recourse.
Backers of the initiative now may begin collecting the 365,880 signatures needed to place the proposal on the 2016 ballot.
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