In Sacramento, California, a significant legal battle is unfolding as supporters of a proposed ballot measure, which mandates school staff to inform parents if their child requests a gender identification change, confront the state’s Attorney General over the wording used to describe the initiative. The group is suing Attorney General Rob Bonta, claiming that the title and summary he provided are misleading and bias the public against the proposal.

Currently titled the “Restrict Rights of Transgender Youth” initiative by the Attorney General’s office, the backers of the measure are pushing for it to be renamed to the “Protect Kids of California Act.” They argue that the existing title and summary do not accurately reflect the intent and implications of the measure, which they believe is designed to safeguard children.

Dean McGee, a lawyer from the Liberty Justice Center representing the measure’s proponents, accused the Attorney General of abusing his power. “It’s an abuse of the attorney general’s power to oversee these ballot measures where he’s legally obligated to be neutral and draft a title and summary that’s impartial,” McGee stated. The initiative, if passed, would also prohibit transgender girls from participating in girls’ and women’s sports from grades 7 through college and restrict gender-affirming surgeries for minors, except under certain conditions.

This legal challenge is part of a broader national debate over the rights of parents versus the rights of LGBTQ+ students in school settings. Similar legislative efforts are seen across the United States, with various states attempting to enforce bans on gender-affirming care, restrict transgender athletes, and mandate parental notifications of any significant changes in a child’s emotional health or well-being.

The proponents of the California measure have collected a quarter of the 500,000 signatures required by May 28 to secure a spot on the November ballot. However, they claim that the language issued by Bonta’s office is impeding their efforts to gather sufficient support and are seeking an extension of 180 days to meet their goal.

They specifically object to the current summary’s statements that the initiative would prohibit gender-affirming care for transgender youth “even if parents consent or if the treatment is medically recommended,” and that it requires schools to notify parents about a child’s request to be recognized as a different gender “without exception for student safety.”

Bob Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies, highlighted the significant influence of ballot measure summaries on voter behavior. He pointed out that for many voters, the summary might be the only piece of information they see before casting their vote. Stern advocates for the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, rather than the Attorney General, to release these summaries to ensure impartiality, especially since the Attorney General, like Bonta, is an elected official with future political aspirations.

Meanwhile, Kathie Moehlig of the TransFamily Support Services in San Diego warns of the detrimental impact such measures could have on vulnerable children. She emphasized that for some children, disclosure of their gender identity at home could pose serious risks. “The unfortunate truth is that there are some kids who are in homes where sharing about their gender identity or sexual orientation would make them unsafe,” Moehlig explained.

As this legal battle continues, it underscores the complex intersection of parental rights, student safety, and the broader societal challenges facing transgender individuals in today’s political and social landscape.