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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | June 24, 2008

Efforts to Overturn Youth Protections at Ballot Box Fail Again

Right-wing Groups End Signature Gathering for Ballot Measure Against SB 777; Lawsuit Seeking to Deny Civil Rights of Youth Moves Forward


(Sacramento, CA, June 24, 2008)—Right-wing groups have failed for a second time to reverse a law that protects California students in public schools from harassment and discrimination. Despite launching signature-gathering efforts earlier in the year, the Capitol Resource Institute on Saturday announced it would no longer seek to overturn Senate Bill 777 at the ballot box this November.

Equality California, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal and Transgender Law Center are pleased the signature drive to overturn civil rights protections for California students has ended. Since late last year, a coalition of right-wing organizations has sought to invalidate SB 777, which reinforced California’s existing nondiscrimination protections in publicly-funded schools and activities to ensure that bias based on religion, race, disability, gender and sexual orientation is prohibited. The bill, authored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, became law on Jan. 1, 2008.

“As of today, we know basic civil rights protections for all students gay and straight remain secure,” said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. EQCA was the sponsor of SB 777. “For months, the opponents of SB 777 have been spreading misinformation and lies about this law, which protects youth from discrimination in our schools. We are pleased their efforts to gather signatures for a November ballot measure have ended, but we will remain vigilant in our efforts protect all youth, knowing our opponents will continue to attack the rights of LGBT Californians, young and old.”

This is the second failed attempt by the opponents of SB 777 to gather signatures for a ballot measure. On Jan. 11, the Capitol Resource Institute announced it could not gather the number of signatures necessary to qualify a referendum on the June Primary Election Ballot.

"All students need school to be a safe place to learn, where harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression is not tolerated," said GSA Network Executive Director Carolyn Laub. GSA Network's youth members across the state advocated for SB 777.

"Fortunately, the opponents of SB 777 have dropped their efforts to gather signatures for a ballot measure this fall. Instead, this fall LGBT students will return to school knowing that they are protected from discrimination under the law in California."

On February 7, 2008, right-wing groups filed a lawsuit in Superior Court of California, County of San Diego to overturn SB 777.

On Monday, Equality California and Gay-Straight Alliance Network filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the court to dismiss the case. The brief argued that “the Legislature properly enacted the hate crimes and non-discrimination statutes in order to enforce the core constitutional principles of eradicating discrimination and ensuring equal protection of the law, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” Equality California and GSA Network are represented by Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, Transgender Law Center, and Law Office of David C. Codell.

A hearing is scheduled for August 22, 2008. The case is California Education Committee, LLC, et al. v Arnold Schwarzenegger, et al.

Equality California Founded in 1998, Equality California celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2008, commemorating a decade of building a state of equality in California. EQCA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to achieve equality and civil rights of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians. http://www.eqca.org/

GSA Network is a nonprofit organization, governed by youth and adults, that empowers youth activists to fight homophobia and transphobia in schools through Gay-Straight Alliance clubs. There are currently more than 650 GSA clubs in California schools, including more than 45% of the public high schools. http://www.gsanetwork.org/.

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. http://www.lambdalegal.org/.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.
http://www.nclrights.org/.

The Transgender Law Center is a civil rights organization advocating for transgender communities through direct legal services, education, community organizing, and policy and media advocacy.
http://www.transgenderlawcenter.org/.

media contacts:

NCLR Logo

Erik Olvera
Director of Communications
National Center for Lesbian Rights
office: 415.392.6257 x324
EOlvera@NCLRights.org

Bethany Woolman
Communications Associate
National Center for Lesbian Rights
office: 415.392.6257 x305
BWoolman@NCLRights.org

Molly Tafoya
Communications and Media Assistant
National Center for Lesbian Rights
office: 415.392.6257 x305
mobile: 415.828.9640
mtafoya@nclrights.org

Equality California Logo

Ali Bay
Communications Manager
Equality California
916.284.9187
ali@eqca.org

GSA Logo

Carolyn Laub
Executive Director
GSA Network
Mobile: 415.235.4556
carolyn@gsanetwork.org

 

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