Suit Threatens Basic Student Protections

(San Diego, CA, January 19, 2008) — Friday evening, Equality California (EQCA) and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA Network) filed an amicus brief supporting Attorney General Edmund G. Brown’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit attempting to invalidate SB 777, the Student Civil Rights Act. The brief argues that the complaint has no legal merit.

California’s Attorney General filed the motion to dismiss the lawsuit on January 11, 2008. The lawsuit, that would prevent enforcement of California statutes protecting students from discrimination, harassment and bullying, was filed in federal district court in San Diego by anti-gay organizations. The new law, which went into effect on January 1st, reinforces existing prohibitions of discrimination in publicly-funded schools and school-related activities, including discrimination based on religion, race, disability, gender and sexual orientation.

Last month, EQCA and the GSA Network filed a motion to intervene to defend SB 777. EQCA was the official sponsor of SB 777, authored by Senator Sheila Kuehl (D- Santa Monica), and both organizations actively supported the law, which 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. The two organizations are represented by NCLR, Lambda Legal, TLC, the law firm Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, LLP and the Law Office of David C. Codell.

According to the 2001 California Healthy Kids Survey, nearly 30 percent of California youth in grades seven to 11 report experiencing harassment or bullying based on their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation.

California’s Legislature passed SB 777 in September and Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law on October 12, 2007.

The lawsuit challenging SB 777 was filed by lawyers for Advocates for Faith and Freedom and the Alliance Defense Fund in federal district court in San Diego in November.

About 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. www.gsanetwork.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.

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 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/.