Gender Jumble
California Student Civil Rights Act ends gendered education.


Jennifer Roback Morse

The hyper-active gay-rights establishment in California has finally succeeded in getting the Governor Schwarzenegger to sign the California Student Civil Rights Act. State Senator Sheila Kuehl’s new bill adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of groups protected from educational discrimination. Teachers and school districts have been prohibited from “giving instruction… [and] sponsoring any activity that reflects adversely upon persons because of their race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin or ancestry” and more recently, sexual orientation and gender identity have been added to the list.

Three things are troubling about this new law. First, we don’t know exactly what qualifies as instruction that “reflects adversely upon persons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Such a law could feasibly prohibit lessons or stories that treat the terms “mother” and “father” as normative; the terms “husband” and “wife” could be forcibly abandoned in favor of the generic, gender neutral “partner.”

Additionally, the law prohibits school districts from “sponsoring any activity that reflects adversely upon persons because of their gender identity.” A number of consequences could be entailed by this; it could mean that having a homecoming queen is prohibited. It could also mean that locker rooms and bathrooms have to be opened to students on the basis of the gender they perceive themselves to be. In truth we don’t know for sure how this legislation will be interpreted, and not knowing what a law will actually do is always a good reason not to pass it.

Also troubling, is the underlying assumption that the state needs new authority to protect gay children from teasing or harassment — an assumption based on no evidence. Discrimination and bullying are already illegal. The state of California is one of the most gay-friendly places on the planet. Why does the GLBT caucus think they need additional authority, unless they plan to use it in new areas? We know that the Los Angeles Unified School District is already allowing students who claim to be transsexual to use the locker rooms of their choice. We know that the Ninth Circuit court held that city of Oakland recently could lawfully prohibit the words “marriage is the foundation of the natural family and sustains family values” as hate speech. I’m somehow not reassured by the gay lobby’s claim that they won’t ban the words, “mother,” “father,” “husband,” and “wife.”