Protect Kids— California, a nonprofit parent and family advocacy group, holds a rally at the California State Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., on Aug. 28, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
SACRAMENTO, Calif.—A coalition of parental rights
groups in California introduced three ballot initiatives
on Aug. 28 to counter state guidelines keeping gender transitions of children at schools secret from parents, allowing biological boys to compete on girls’ sports teams, and enabling transgender
medical interventions on minors.
Students First California, a nonprofit parent and family advocacy group founded last year, created a subgroup called Protect Kids California
to work with other parental rights groups to organize the ballot initiatives effort.
The coalition expects to begin collecting signatures in November once California Attorney General Rob Bonta issues ballot titles and summaries for each initiative. Then, they will have 180 days to collect the 546,651 qualified signatures on each initiative to make the statewide ballot in the 2024 general election.
The Protect Children from Reproductive Harm Act
would, according to the initiative’s text, “protect the reproductive, sexual health and bodily integrity of children as they grow into adults, including their natural ability to function sexually, reproduce, and breastfeed.” It would also prohibit the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones and ban gender transition surgeries for minors.
The second initiative, the Protect Girls Sports and Spaces Act
, would ensure fair and safe opportunities for girls to compete in athletic programs. It recognizes physical differences between the sexes that give males a competitive advantage over female athletes. It would also require sex-segregated locker rooms and bathrooms for boys and girls.
And the School Transparency and Partnership Act
would require consent from parents or legal guardians for social gender transitions of their children at school and would require school staff to keep parents fully informed about all matters that are important to parents and the well-being of students, including children’s mental health and social and psychological development.
Jay Reed, a board member of Students First California, told more than 100 supporters gathered on the steps of the state Capitol Building that the coalition wants to take these issues directly to California voters because, he said, the governing Democratic Party is not listening to parents.
Legislation proposed this session by Assemblyman Bill Essayli (R-Riverside), which would have required school staff to notify parents within three days if their child identifies as transgender at school, was killed in committee before it was heard, Mr. Reed said.
California Assemblyman Bill Essayli (R-Riverside) speaks at the California state Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 28, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
The parental rights coalition, he said, is composed mainly of parents and young adults intent on “protecting kids from dangerous and unproven policies and ideologies.”
“Instead of reasonable conversations or engagement, we’re instead called right-wing MAGA, and as a state senator called us on Friday, ‘bigots,’” Mr. Reed said. “Just this morning, we were labeled as ‘anti-trans.’”
Jonathan Zachreson, president of the Students First group and a trustee for the Roseville City School District, about 20 miles northeast of Sacramento, is the main proponent of the initiatives.
“We have a Legislature that is not representing the will of Californians,” he said. “The polling data is clear: A majority of Californians from 2:1 or 3:1, including in many cases two-thirds of Democrats, support these issues, so we have to take this directly to the voters.”
Meanwhile, the Newsom administration has retaliated against such parental rights groups with Mr. Bonta filing a lawsuit on Aug. 28 against the Chino Valley Unified School District regarding its recently adopted policy requiring schools to notify parents if a child has requested to be known as a gender different from the sex on his or her birth certificate.
Equality California, an LGBT
activist group, staged a protest on the Capitol grounds on Aug. 29 after issuing a statement a day earlier applauding the lawsuit and denouncing the school district’s parental notification policy as the “forced outing” of transgender students.
“This policy infringes on the rights and privacy of transgender students and sets a dangerous precedent that can lead to discrimination against others,” Tony Huang, Equality California’s executive director, said in the statement.
Tony Thurmond, superintendent of California schools, attended the Equality California protest and accused the school district’s board majority of “creating a division for political purposes, and neglecting the academic achievement of students.”
“We’re grateful to our partner, the attorney general, for the lawsuit that he is bringing on to help clarify anything that needs to be clarified in law,” he said. “We’ve been investigating school districts that we think violate the rights of our students, and we will continue to stand for our students.”
California state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond speaks at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 29, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who also spoke at the Equality California rally, panned parental rights groups.
“We are going to put these ballot measures where they belong: in the garbage bin of history. And we’re going to make sure that they stay there,” Mr. Wiener said. “They are now trying to make it a popularity contest for whether our children have the right to exist. ... We have risen up and we have said, ‘No, not on our watch,’ and we’re going to do that again.”
Mr. Essayli, the assemblyman from Corona, said at the Aug. 28 rally that the Democratic Party is pushing a “false” and “reckless” narrative that parental rights are anti-trans.
“We are not attacking trans kids; we are protecting them. They are hurting these kids. They are going to cause them to experience irreparable harm by sterilizing them or putting them down a path that leads to medical intervention that is not reversible,” he said.
Mr. Essayli said his Democrat opponents have portrayed parents as “a hate group,” and a “danger to their own kids,” with no evidence to back up such claims.
“It’s a lie,” he said. “What we are concerned with is who gets to raise our kids? Who gets to raise the next generation of students in the state of California? Is it the government or is it their parent? That’s what this comes down to.”
The government, he said, has “no right whatsoever” to withhold information from parents.
Erin Friday, an attorney and the western U.S. regional co-leader of Our Duty, an international group of nonpartisan parents who are fighting against gender ideology, criticized California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Mr. Bonta over the lawsuit (pdf
“I have a daughter who used to believe that she was a boy. She was indoctrinated by her school, and that fact was hidden from me,” she said at the Protect Kids California rally.
Sophie Lorey, 23, who played soccer at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, spoke out against boys identifying as transgender playing in girls’ sports and using their locker rooms.
She was recently prevented from speaking on the issue on Aug. 20 at a public library in Davis.
“Physiological reality is undeniable. No matter how hard females work, males are statistically faster and stronger. This is not bigotry. This is biology,” she said. “The safety and rights of women and girls as sports bathrooms and locker rooms should have never been sacrificed for the feelings of boys and men.”
Sophie Lorey, who played soccer at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Calif., speaks at the California state Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 28, 2023, against boys identifying as transgender playing in girls’ sports and using their locker rooms. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
, a 19-year-old who detransitioned and is suing her medical provider, Kaiser Permanente, for performing a double mastectomy on her when she was 15, told the crowd she wants to stop the mutilation of minors.
California, she said, has become “a safe haven for medical experimentation on children by doctors looking for cash grabs and political points.”