A Sacramento County Superior Court judge ordered the California secretary of state Thursday to accept about 5,000 disputed signatures collected in a referendum effort by opponents of California's new transgender student law.
California Secretary of State Debra Bowen had refused to accept petitions received in Mono and Tulare counties, saying they arrived after a November 10 deadline. In a tentative ruling, Judge Allen Sumner said because Nov. 10 fell on a Sunday and the following Monday, Veterans Day, was a holiday, petitions received the following day should be considered filed in time.
"Ever since the voters enacted the referendum power in 1911, courts have liberally construed its provisions to protect the voters' power," the judge wrote. "The fact the deadline for submitting petitions falls on a weekend preceding a holiday, or the county registrar closes a noon on Friday, should not prevent Petitioner from having her petition signatures accepted."
Bowen's office said it will comply with the decision.
The new law allows transgender students to use the school facilities and join school teams that reflect the gender they identify with.
Opponents attempting to qualify a referendum for the ballot need more than 500,000 valid signatures statewide. The ruling comes as counties sample signatures to estimate the number that are valid.
"It is a shame that we had to go to court to assure that the citizens of Tulare and Mono would not be disenfranchised by the arbitrary actions of the Secretary of State," Gina Gleason, a proponent of the referendum, said in a prepared statement.
PHOTO: A new law allows transgender students to use the school facilities that reflect the gender they identify with. The Sacramento Bee file photo/Renee C. Byer