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Effort behind Calif. ballot measure to limit transgender youth’s rights fails

Protect Kids California failed to collect enough signatures

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Protect Kids California CEO Jonathan Zachreson, right, with Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and an unnamed delegate at the California GOP convention in Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 29, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Zachreson’s Facebook page)

The effort by the anti-LGBTQ conservative group Protect Kids California, headed by Roseville school board member Jonathan Zachreson, to collect some 550,000 valid signatures to place a transphobic transgender youth proposal on the Nov. 5 ballot has failed.

In a press release on Tuesday, the deadline set by the California secretary of state, the group claimed it had gathered more than 400,000 signatures, falling short of the requisite threshold number for inclusion on the ballot.

Protect Kids California submitted the proposed ballot initiative — presented as the “Protect Kids of California Act of 2024,” last September. The proposed ballot initiative would have:

  • Forced outing of transgender youth to their parents, ensuring that trans kids cannot have safety or privacy in schools if they are not ready to come out to family. Often these policies also include violations of privacy for the student when they discuss their gender identity with school counselors.
  • Banning of transgender youth from sports that match their gender identity, stigmatizing them and often forcing them out of sports altogether. Notably, these provisions typically fail to differentiate between high-stakes elite competitions and casual middle school teams. They also generally don’t provide for pathways to participation like hormone therapy, a method that has been researched and employed to address concerns of potential “unfair advantages” in competitions. California, which allows youth to access gender affirming care, will have youth who never underwent the puberty of their assigned sex at birth who would also be banned under this provision.
  • Banning gender affirming care for trans youth shown to be lifesaving. Gender affirming care is associated with a 73 percent reduction in suicidality and over 50 studies assembled by Cornell University show its benefits. California is one of several states that has recently moved to protect transgender youth and their medical care, and such a restriction would impact a large number of transgender kids in the state.

“We are relieved that anti-LGBTQ+ extremists have failed to reach the required signature threshold to qualify their anti-transgender ballot initiatives to the November 2024 ballot. Equality California will continue to advocate for the rights of LGBTQ+ youth everywhere, and push back against any and all efforts by extremist groups who seek to discriminate against them,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang. “To every LGBTQ+ youth in California: Know that you are loved and valued.”

The anti-LGBTQ group placed partial blame for the failure on California Attorney General Rob Bonta, who the group had sued over the title and summary he assigned to its ballot measure that would strip rights from trans minors.

The Bay Area Reporter noted the Liberty Justice Center filed a lawsuit on Feb. 13 in Sacramento County Superior Court on behalf of Protect Kids California that alleged Bonta’s personal beliefs led to a biased title and summary. Therefore, the center contended the ballot measure proponents should be given 180 additional days for signature gathering without discounting signatures already collected.

“Respondent [Bonta] has demonstrated that he personally, and in his official capacity, is opposed to any kind of notification by a public school to a parent or guardian that his or her child is exhibiting signs of gender dysphoria when the child asks the school to publicly treat him or her as the opposite sex with a new name or pronouns, and to allow the child to use the sex-segregated facilities of the opposite sex,” claimed the groups in their lawsuit.

But a Sacramento Superior Court judge sided with Bonta in a ruling that was first issued tentatively on April 19 and was made final on April 22. Judge Stephen Acquisto ruled that Bonta’s title and summary are accurate.

“Under current law, minor students have express statutory rights with respect to their gender identity,” Acquisto stated. “A substantial portion of the proposed measure is dedicated to eliminating or restricting these statutory rights … The proposed measure would eliminate express statutory rights and place a condition of parental consent on accommodations that are currently available without such condition.”

“The proposed measure objectively ‘restricts rights’ of transgender youth by preventing the exercise of their existing rights. ‘Restricts rights of transgender youth’ is an accurate and impartial description of the proposed measure,” Acquisto added.

The attorney general’s office has some leeway when it comes to determining ballot titles, the judge noted.

In a statement provided to the Bay Area Reporter on April 24, after news that the decision had been made permanent, Protect Kids California attorney Nicole Pearson stated, “The mental gymnastics used to justify this prejudicial title and summary are not only an egregious abuse of discretion that entitles our clients to an appeal, but a chilling interpretation of law that jeopardizes the very foundation of our constitutional republic. We are reviewing our options for an appeal of these clear errors and will announce a decision shortly.”

Additional reporting by the Bay Area Reporter.

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California

First lady highlights attacks on LGBTQ rights at HRC’s Los Angeles dinner

Jill Biden delivered event’s keynote speech

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First lady Jill Biden speaks onstage during the Human Rights Campaign’s 2024 Los Angeles Dinner at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel on March 23, 2024. (HRC YouTube screenshot)

In her remarks Saturday to the people attending the Human Rights Campaign’s 2024 Los Angeles Dinner at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel, first lady Jill Biden took direct aim at what she labeled as MAGA extremists attempting to instill fear in the LGBTQ community by legislative attacks on the marginalized community’s rights.

Biden, in reference to the federal budget package passed by Congress on Friday to avert a government shutdown, told the audience:

“Today, this community is under attack. Rights are being stripped away. Freedoms are eroding. More and more state laws are being passed targeting this community. Just last night, we had to fend off more than 50 anti-gay amendments that Republicans tried to force into the government funding bill.”

She added: “These were extreme measures aimed directly at this community — measures that would have limited healthcare, eroded protections for same-sex couples and more. And they served only one purpose: To spread hate and fear.”

Cautioning that history showed that “democracies don’t disappear overnight,” Biden warned, “They disappear slowly. Subtly. Silently. A book ban. A court decision. A ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law. One group of people loses their rights. And then another, and another. Until one morning you wake up — and you no longer live in a democracy.”

The first lady also made mention of Nex Benedict, the 16-year-old transgender Oklahoma high school student whose death last month was ruled a suicide and had garnered national attention:

“Laws and attitudes can lead to devastating consequences — harm that can’t be undone, that leaves parents torn by grief. Parents and grandparents like Sue Benedict — may Nex rest in peace — and the countless others who have lost LGBTQ children to suicide, bullying and hate. Parents who have stood by their kids, loved them, learned from them, but who will never have another tomorrow with them. This is our chapter of history — and it’s up to us how it ends,” she said.

“Yes, the MAGA extremists are seeking to erase these hard-fought gains, trying to unwind all the progress we’ve made. They want us to be afraid,” she stressed.

Biden then assured the audience: “They want to take our victories away, but we won’t let them. Your president won’t let them. I won’t let them. We’re going to fight. And we will win.”

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Northern California school board approves anti-trans ‘Outing’ policy

The Rocklin Unified School District School Board members voted 4-1 & passed the policy after an hours long contentious meeting Wednesday

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A third California school district board has now voted to implement a mandatory gender identity disclosure policy which requires school administrators and faculty to notify parents if “their child wants to be identified as a gender other than their biological sex.”

The Rocklin Unified School District School Board passed the policy after an hours long contentious meeting Wednesday. Board members voted 4-1 to approve the policy just before 12:40 a.m. Thursday. Board trustees Julie Hupp, Tiffany Saathoff, Rachelle Price and Dereck Counter voted in favor of the policy amendment. Michelle Sutherland was the lone member to vote against it, Sacramento NBC affiliate KCRA 3 reported.

Similar to other forced outing policies recently enacted by certain school districts, the policy requires schools to inform parents, with minimal exceptions, whenever a student requests to use a name or pronoun different from that on their birth certificate or official records, even without the student’s permission. The policy also requires notification if a student requests to use facilities or participates in programs that don’t align with their sex on official records.

The vote comes after Attorney General Rob Bonta sent a letter to the Board cautioning them of the dangers of adopting its forced outing policy, emphasizing the potential infringements on students’ civil rights and educational opportunities.

“Despite our ongoing commitment to stand against any actions that target and discriminate against California’s transgender and gender-nonconforming youth, Rocklin Unified has chosen to endanger their civil rights by adopting a policy that forcibly outs them without consideration of their safety and well-being,” said Attorney General Bonta. “I have said it before and I will say it again: We will not tolerate any policy that perpetuates discrimination, harassment, or exclusion within our educational institutions.”

The San Bernardino Superior Court ruled earlier on Wednesday to issue a temporary restraining order against Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education’s (CVUSD) mandatory gender identity disclosure policy, immediately halting its enforcement. Just last week, Attorney General Bonta announced a lawsuit challenging the enforcement of CVUSD’s forced outing policy.

Recently, Attorney General Bonta issued a statement following Anderson Union High School District, and Temecula Valley and Murrieta Valley Unified School District Boards’ decisions to implement copy-cat mandatory gender identity disclosure policy targeting transgender and gender-nonconforming students.

Rainbow Youth Project USA (RYP) and Our Schools USA (OSUSA) have expanded resources and support services to students and staff impacted by Parental Notification policies in California school districts. 

“We are proud to expand our services and resources to meet the growing needs of LGBTQ+ students and staff affected by Parental Notification policies in numerous California school districts,” said Kristen Johnston, Case Manager & Crisis Team Leader of Rainbow Youth Project USA. “Our commitment to offering free, accessible, and confidential services ensures individuals seeking support can access a wide range of resources, including educational materials, support groups, and LGBTQ+-friendly mental health counseling services.”

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Community in pain remembers Laura Ann Carleton

Calif. boutique owner murdered over Pride flag

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Laura Ann Carleton (Family photo shared on social media)

The news of the shooting death of a beloved local merchant this past weekend spread at a speed that would match a seasonal California wildfire in this mountain community above Lake Arrowhead.

Now that community and its LGBTQ community are in mourning and deep pain.

Murdered over a Pride flag, Laura Ann Carleton, 66, is remembered by her husband of 28 years, nine children, family, friends, and fans worldwide, but most especially by the tightknit community where she owned a clothing boutique called Mag.Pi.

A lifelong ally of the LGBTQ community, she proudly flew the instantly recognizable rainbow Pride flag in front of her store. 

Vandals in the what locals have said is an increasingly homophobic community near Lake Arrowhead tore down her flag repeatedly. Each time, she put up a bigger one. She expressed fear to close friends that one day these constant vandalizations would escalate to an in-person altercation. 

Then, on Aug. 18, Carleton’s fears came true when a 27-year-old male tried to vandalize Carleton’s flag yet again. She got into a heated verbal argument with the armed man who hurled homophobic remarks at her. He then pulled out a concealed handgun shooting and murdering her.

Prior to the murder, the suspect, Travis Ikeguchi, posted several homophobic images on social media including a burning pride flag.  

“This disgusting hate has no place in CA,” tweeted California Gov. Gavin Newsom shortly after Carleton’s death. 

The destruction of Pride flags has been under review in several states as a hate crime. 

“Let’s be clear,” said representatives for Equality California. “— Lauri Carleton was a victim of the hate-filled calls to action made by politicians and extremists that continue to push false narratives and misinformation about the LGBTQ+ community. Her unwavering commitment to standing for the dignity and respect of LGBTQ+ people is a testament to her kindness and humanity and will always be remembered.

“More than 350 anti-LGBTQ+ incidents occurred from June 2022 to April 2023, accompanied by the introduction of more than 500 anti-LGBTQ pieces of legislation introduced across the country in 2023 alone. This hate does not happen in a vacuum — it is all part of a backlash to the advances made by the LGBTQ community. We must continue to stand against this rising tide of hatred.”

Before opening her clothing stores, Carleton studied at the Art Center for School and Design. While there, she built a reputation for being kind-hearted and creative. Eventually, she joined the staff of Kenneth Cole Productions in 1982 and worked for the company for more than 15 years, becoming an executive, according to the company’s website.

Cole posted a statement on social media confirming Carleton had been a friend and a long-time associate of his company. He called her killing “an unnecessary and tragic death.”

The Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ group called Carleton a “remarkable figure”, whose “unwavering support” for the community and “dedication to creating a safe and inclusive space within her shop touched the lives of many.” 

“Today was a very sad day for Lake Arrowhead and for the LGBTQ community. Our friend and supporter Lauri Carleton … was murdered defending her lgbtq+ Pride flags in front of her store in Cedar Glen, California,” the group wrote in a statement. “Lauri did not identify as LGBTQ+ but spent her time helping and advocating for everyone in the community. She will be truly missed.”

Matthew Clevenger, a co-founder of the organization, recalled that “new folks moving into town — new couples, new LGBTQ families — were concerned about moving up here. We hear stories about them driving by her store and seeing the flags and feeling so welcome.

“They immediately felt the acceptance and were no longer afraid to be up here,” Clevenger told KABC and other media outlets. “And Lauri did that for them.”

The suddenness of the heinous crime seemed to leave many family members and friends in disbelief at their loss. A family photo of Carleton has been circulating the internet that embodies her love of nature and effortless style. In it, Carlton wears her long, wavy hair down under a sun hat. She has on turtle shell sunglasses and a denim button-down top under a sand-colored jacket. 

“We are all devastated for her husband Bort,” said film director Paul Feig, a close friend of Carleton’s, “and her family and the LGBTQ+ community, for whom Lauri was such a true ally.” Her alleged murderer was later shot and killed by the San Bernardino police and so no longer poses a threat to the community. But this intolerance has to end. Anyone using hateful language against the LGBTQ+ community has to realize their words matter and that their words can inspire violence against innocent, loving people. Let’s all keep moving forward with tolerance and love. Let’s not let Lauri’s tragic death be in vain.”

Film director Paul Feig, a close friend, shown here with Carleton. (Photo courtesy of Paul Feig/Instagram)

Other friends lamented that they had just seen Carleton alive and well and were making plans to take a trip to the lake together. 

Actress Bridget Everett — of the HBO MAX dramedy “Somebody Somewhere” — also mourned Carleton in a post on Instagram, saying it was not the first encounter Carleton faced over displaying the Pride flag.

“In the past, when someone took down her flag or vandalized it, she’d put up another one,” Everett said in her post, which was accompanied by a photo of Carleton. “The last time I saw Lauri was, oddly enough, at Lake Arrowhead Pride, both in the parade and then at a party. All that anti-LGBTQ rhetoric has a price. And now, Lauri’s husband Bort, her daughters, friends and community are devastated. And for what?”

The local Mountain Provisions Cooperative wrote a moving tribute on Instagram: 

“In loving memory of our dear friend, mom to many, ally, organizer, entrepreneur, founding member and soul of our co-op Lauri Carleton.

Lauri was a pillar in our community, an immovable force in her values for equality, love, and justice. If you knew Lauri you know she loved hard, laughed often, and nurtured and protected those she cared about. She was a force, she loved to crack jokes and wanted to live as joyful of a life as possible. We will continue to stand for the values she so selflessly stood for. Her death will not be in vain 💗

Lauri and her husband Bort were pivotal in organizing our Free Store which provided free food and supplies for four months after the blizzard. Lauri put her whole heart into keeping it going as long as we could. Pay an act of kindness forward in her honor. Our community needs as much as love as we can get right now.

Fly your flags in honor of Lauri 🏳️‍🌈 love will prevail. Please respect the privacy and be respectful of family and friends grieving this horrific loss 💔

Sending love to our entire community, especially our queer community. Stay safe friends.”

“I admire her, and I’m so proud of her, and I know she passed standing up for something she believed in,” said Ari Carleton, one of her daughters.

“She was so fearless and any negative reaction she just powered through,” Ari Carleton added. “The flags have been torn down before by different individuals, and she always went and ordered an even larger flag in response.”

During his Monday press briefing, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus spoke about the national attention this case has received:

“This particular victim has had an impact really across the United States,” said the sheriff. “We’ve been reached out by the vice president of the United States. Our victim certainly had a major impact on the community and people that she’s come across with during her lifetime.”

The family has asked for time to hold a vigil for Carleton. The vigil will be announced when the family deems it appropriate to do so and will be open to the public. 

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