(Sacramento, CA, March 19, 2009)—Civil rights groups representing thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Californians filed a friend-of- the-court brief on Wednesday in support of Attorney General Jerry Brown’s request to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to invalidate SB 777, the Student Civil Rights Act.
The amicus brief by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Lambda Legal, the Transgender Law Center, Equality California, and Gay Straight Alliance Network (GSA Network), argues that the complaint lacks legal merit. The lawsuit is the third of its kind brought against the state by right-wing groups.
“These laws protect the safety and well being of all students,” said Carolyn Laub, GSA Network Executive Director. “Thousands of California students endure daily harassment at school based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Schools should be a safe space for everyone; it’s hard to believe that some adults don’t agree.”
The Attorney General filed the motion to dismiss the lawsuit on January 8, 2009. The right-wing groups seek to prevent enforcement of California statutes protecting students from discrimination, harassment, and bullying by overturning SB 777, which went into effect on January 1, 2008. SB 777 reinforces existing prohibitions of discrimination in publicly-funded schools and school-related activities, including discrimination based on religion, race, disability, gender, and sexual orientation and makes them consistent throughout the state education codes. The law updates the Education Code to clearly reflect current law so school administrators and teachers know their responsibilities to protect students without having to cross-reference other sections of state law. It was sponsored by Equality California, the state’s LGBTQ legislative organization, and authored by former Senator Sheila Kuehl.
According to the 2001 California Healthy Kids Survey, nearly 30 percent of California youth in grades 7 to 11 report experiencing harassment or bullying based on their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender, or sexual orientation.
Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 777 into law on October 12, 2007. It was attacked in U.S District Court for the Southern District of California by the same groups mounting the current challenge, though they later dropped both that lawsuit and a second one filed in San Diego Superior Court.
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.
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.
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.
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. www.gsanetwork.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.