Legislation that would allow California students to choose the bathrooms, locker rooms and sports teams that best match their individual gender identities squeaked out of the Senate with a 21-9 vote Wednesday.
The Assembly passed the bill in May. Its next stop is the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown.
Authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, Assembly Bill 1266 generated pointed questions about whether a bill couched in tolerance and inclusiveness could alienate some students and parents. Skeptical lawmakers said it might encourage biologically male students to join women's teams and dominate.
Calling the legislation "an extraordinarily consequential bill," Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, said the bill would impose "no standard of evidence to verify what gender (students) declare that day."
"Think about all of the parents and all the students that would be uncomfortable in this situation," Nielsen said. He also warned about exposing students to the predations of "youthful sex offenders" who are "masters of manipulating circumstances to their advantage."
Lawmakers supporting the bill argued that school administrators would be able to distinguish between students trying to game the system and students struggling with their gender identity.
"Let's not confuse silly behavioral issues with serious gender identity issues," said Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens.
Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who carried the bill in the Senate, invoked the abuse transgender students face and said the bill would ease the gradual, halting process they go through.
"What we're not yet teaching kids is the broad diversity of the human experience," Leno said. "We have all sorts of kids."
PHOTO: Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, glances down at his notes as he speaks during a hearing on April 5, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.