Bill that bans schools from outing students passes California Senate. Will Newsom sign it?

After some impassioned testimony on both sides, California senators voted on party lines Thursday to approve a bill that would ban school districts from passing policies requiring staff to notify parents if their child uses a different name or pronouns at school.

Critics call those policies “forced outings,” noting that they don’t take the student’s consent or personal well-being at home into account.

Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, introduced the bill and started the debate, saying that Assembly Bill 1955 is a “surgical” attempt to put “guardrails” in place to prevent these policies from being enacted.

Stockton, who is LGBTQ, told her own story of how she didn’t share her sexuality with her parents at first, and how one time in high school, in the ‘70s, her principal called her father to tell him that she was dating a Black man.

“I’m still struck by that, it still makes me angry,” she said.

She said that today’s transgender notification policies are similar, and that teachers should not be “the gender police.”

“Kids have a right to privacy. That’s what this bill is,” she said.

Republicans had a different view. Sen. Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks, said that while everyone was talking about the right of students, “we haven’t talked about the right of parents.”

He asked his colleagues and people watching to consider how they would feel if a school kept their child’s gender identity from them, preventing them from making important decisions.

Sen. Kelly Seyarto, R-Murrieta, echoed that sentiment.

“That’s what parents are afraid of, they don’t want to be left out of that conversation,” he said.

The bill passed the Senate 29-8. It now has to go back to the Assembly for a vote.

If the bill does make it to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, it’s unclear whether he will sign the bill into law. Newsom has cast himself as a strong LGBTQ ally, but in 2023 he vetoed legislation that would have required courts to weigh whether a parent is accepting of their transgender child when determining custody.

A spokesman for Newsom’s office told Politico California that the governor doesn’t generally opine on active legislation and that he would evaluate the bill on its merits if it reaches his desk. His office had not responded to The Bee before the story’s deadline.

Democratic support

Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said that her daughter came out to her as a high school freshman but didn’t come out to her father.

“What a violation of her privacy, and what a violation of her ability to talk to her father when she was ready” if the school district had contacted the father to tell him, Skinner said.

“It is the role of our schools to have our kids feel safe,” she said.

Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, who is gay, said that while his parents were very loving and supportive, it still took him three years to come out to them.

“I made that decision on my own timetable,” he said.

Sen. Caroline Menjivar, D-Van Nuys, offered a very different, and very painful, perspective of growing up as a queer youth.

She spoke of how a cousin outed her to her mother when she was in high school

“I came home to literally all my things on the front lawn, because I was kicked out. Because that’s what happens when parents don’t accept queer kids,” she said.

Menjivar said she didn’t fully come out to her mother until she was 25.

“To this day, my mom doesn’t accept me,” she said. “...There are many queer kids in California who have these stories.”

Sen. Susan Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, who has worked as a victim’s advocate, listed examples of parents who allowed, or actively participated in, the abuse of their children.

“Let’s just remember that not all parents do the right thing,” she said.

Republican opposition

Sen. Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, said he couldn’t support the bill because it undermined local control of elected school boards.

Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, R-Yucaipa, said that children forfeit their right to privacy when they choose to disclose their gender identity to school staff and ask them for accommodations.

She added that “historically, parents have always wanted what is best for their children.”

“Maybe not always, but the majority, the majority of parents would,” she added.

Thursday’s vote was preceded by an opposition rally outside the Capitol, which was organized by the California Family Council, which recently was designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks and studies extremist groups.

Participants of the rally included anti-transgender activists Erin Friday and Jonathan Zachreson; Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno; Lance Christensen, who unsuccessfully ran for superintendent of public instruction in 2022; Brandon Campbell, pastor with California Baptists for Biblical Values; and Jonathan Keller, president of the California Family Council.