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Transgender Student-Athletes Can Now Choose Sports Teams in Calif.

Transgender student-athletes in California now have the ability, based on their gender identity, to choose which sex-segregated athletic team to join under a law signed Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The new law, AB 1266, also allows transgender students to choose which school locker rooms and bathrooms to use.

As noted by my colleague Ross Brenneman on our Rules for Engagement blog, even before the signing of this new law, California offered significant protections to transgender students. By law, schools couldn't require students of one sex to enroll in a particular class or course unless the same class or course was also required by students of the other sex. The same held true for physical education: If a school required students of one sex to take phys. ed., it must, by law, be available to students of all sexes.

The law signed by the governor on August 12 further extends those protections. It now includes the following language:

"A pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with her or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil's records."

Detractors of the new law, according to the Associated Press, claim that allowing students of one gender to use facilities intended for the other gender could cause certain students to feel uncomfortable.

That concern has been raised in other states with similar protections for transgender students. California is the first state in the nation to enact these protections into law, bill sponsor Tom Ammiano told the Associated Press in July, but at least two other states have statewide policies granting the same protections.

Massachusetts enacted a law in November 2011 that added gender-related identity to several state statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of several categories. Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Department of Education issued guidance for schools about the treatment of transgender students, with specific notes about their right to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identities.

While some students "may feel uncomfortable with a transgender student using the same sex-segregated restroom, locker room or changing facility," the state department of education declared that "this discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student."

Could the same argument apply to California? Supporters of AB 1266 certainly may believe so.

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