A bill that would provide transgender students equal access to facilities and programs based on their gender identity cleared California's state assembly Thursday, marking a major step forward for a population that has long faced discrimination in schools.
"This shows the nobility of what a legislature can do," Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who authored the measure, said on the Assembly floor.
While California law currently prevents discrimination against transgender students, Ammiano's legislation would create further protections. For example, the bill would explicitly allow students to use public restrooms and join sports teams that correspond with how they identify, regardless of their biological gender.
"Making this gender identity requirement clear will help parents and students understand their rights while also helping schools comply with the law, reducing conflict and the potential for litigation, while protecting students' health and well-being," a statement announcing the measure's passage read. The same statement noted that the legislation would have no fiscal impact on the state.
Opponents of the bill argue that giving transgender students the freedom to use whichever facilities they choose may cause discomfort to their peers, especially since puberty can be a "stressful" time.
"Because somebody is uncomfortable is not a reason to discriminate," Ammiano said to critics in a statement.
The measure, which passed in a 45-24 vote, heads to the state Senate for consideration next.