Meet The Anti-LGBT Extremists Behind The Campaign To Repeal California's Transgender Protections
November 12, 2013 2:38 pm ET by Luke Brinker
Privacy for All Students, a coalition seeking to overturn a new law ensuring proper facilities access for transgender students in California, recently claimed that it has gathered enough signatures to stage a referendum on repealing the law in November 2014. A glance at the coalition's member groups reveals that rabid anti-LGBT animus and manufactured horror stories - not a genuine, well-founded concern for student privacy - are at the heart of this repeal campaign.
What Is Privacy For All Students?
Privacy for all Students formed after Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) signed Assembly Bill 1266 into law in August. The law guarantees the rights of transgender public school students to use facilities and participate in programs and athletic activities that correspond with their gender identities.
Led by Frank Schubert, the political director for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), Privacy for All Students gained the backing of state and national conservative groups, with an eye toward putting the repeal of AB 1266 up for a popular vote in next year's election. On November 10, the coalition announced that it had gathered 620,000 signatures in support of a referendum. A successful referendum petition requires 505,000 valid signatures. California officials will review the signatures to determine whether Privacy for All Students has met that threshold.
With a referendum looking increasingly likely - and with heated debate over the law sure to continue regardless - here's a look at the key players fighting to put transgender students' rights up to a popular vote.
The National Organization For Marriage
While its name and founders suggest that NOM's mission is restricted to the marriage debate, NOM has given the repeal effort its full-throated backing. Shortly after penning a column for RedState.com denouncing the transgender "craze" and comparing transgender people to white people who think they're African-American, Schubert formally joined the California campaign. NOM itself followed soon after, announcing in a September 20 press release that it had joined Privacy for All Students.
NOM President Brian Brown - who has no qualms about advising Russian lawmakers on how best to execute their anti-LGBT crackdown - asserted that AB 1266 would lead to transgender students "bullying" their peers with all manner of inappropriate bathroom behavior. Never mind that school districts implementing similar policies have experienced no such problems, reporting "nothing but positive results." Or that if you're worried about bullying, addressing the high rates of violence and harassment faced by transgender people is a good place to start.
ActRight, Brown's political fundraising operation - which shares office space with NOM and has funded state-level anti-marriage equality campaigns - has also signed on to Privacy for all Students' effort.
The Pacific Justice Institute
Founded in 1997 by Brad Dacus, the organization's current president, the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) has made a name for itself as a notoriously anti-LGBT organization. PJI has lobbied against a bill banning damaging and ineffective "ex-gay" therapy for minors, claimed that teaching LGBT history in public schools amounts to "LGBT indoctrination," and called on students to denounce homosexuality during the anti-bullying "Day of Silence." Dacus believes that homosexuality is "dangerous" and "destructive" and has advocated ex-gay therapy as a way to save LGBT teens from a "path of death and destruction."
But PJI is about more than just inflammatory rhetoric. It's also willing to tell blatant lies in order to advance its bigoted agenda. In October, PJI invented a story about a transgender female student in Colorado harassing her peers in the school restroom. When reports of the student's alleged bullying proved false, PJI essentially admitted that its story was made up, defensively stating that it was "inherently intimidating and harassing" to have a transgender female in a female restroom.
Bathroom panic has been central to the right-wing media's attacks on the California law. PJI's role in Privacy for All Students indicates that the repeal campaign is perfectly happy to lie in the service of that narrative.
Capitol Resource Institute
Under Executive Director Karen England, the Sacramento-based Capitol Resource Institute (CRI) has become a reliable purveyor of anti-LGBT misinformation. CRI states that its mission is to "strengthen families ... by working to influence public policy." England, a self-styled soldier in the "culture war," has spearheaded CRI's fights against marriage equality, LGBT history education, and, most recently, AB 1266 - which she says imposes "San Francisco values on all California schools." According to England, the law means that people are "supposed to treat me like I'm Christie Brinkley even though I'm not. That's what they are doing."
England also demonstrated her ignorance of gender identity in an August appearance on Fox News' Huckabee, where she denounced AB1266 as "very extreme, very radical" and claimed that "they are going to let boys wake up one day, decide that they're girls, and let them have access to our restrooms and our locker rooms." England and other opponents of the law are fond of such claims, but the American Academy of Pediatrics has debunked the notion that gender identity is a switch that youth can flip off and on. Gender identity, the academy states, is generally established by age four.
Faith And Public Policy
The explicitly theocratic Faith and Public Policy (FPP) states that its "vision is to see the church regain its influence on our culture in order to restore our nation to its biblical foundation." Its website regularly directs readers to the work of the anti-LGBT hate groups the Family Research Council (FRC) and the Illinois Family Institute (IFI).
According to FPP, the LGBT movement is a "campaign for immorality," an assault on liberty, and is responsible for pedophilia, which is purportedly "a problem that is increasing thanks to the rise of homosexual acceptance." FPP advises those who know transgender people to make clear to them how "reckless" their "lifestyle" is.
The AP report on Privacy for All Students' announcement that it had gathered enough signatures for a referendum quoted FPP's Gina Gleason but failed to note her organization's vitriolic anti-LGBT rhetoric and theocratic goals.
As the campaign to repeal AB 1266 intensifies, it's important for media outlets covering the debate to remember that the law's opponents aren't serious, reasonable people with well-grounded objections to a particular public policy. Under the guise of defending "privacy," the crusade against the law has been orchestrated by a cast of anti-LGBT bigots, fabulists, and avowed theocrats. Their commitment isn't to a healthy democratic debate - it's to rolling back every legal protection for a minority group about whom they're boastfully ignorant.