SB 777 referendum drive fails; New initiative plan launched


SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A referendum drive seeking to overturn a new state law that bans "discriminatory bias" against homosexuality in public schools has failed to garner enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, though its supporters vow to continue the fight.

In a Jan. 10 news conference Karen England, director of the Save Our Kids campaign, announced that the all-volunteer effort garnered more than 350,000 signatures, well short of the needed 434,000 valid signatures. The group's goal was to collect more than 700,000 signatures to account for errors and duplications.

"For a completely volunteer-driven campaign to obtain this number of signatures is unheard of," England said in a news release. "We had to overcome incredible difficulties during our signature gathering, including the holidays, and the results are astonishing."

The Save Our Kids campaign is a project of the Capitol Resource Family Impact group, of which England serves as executive director. If successful, the referendum would have asked voters to approve the measure before it could be implemented.

The referendum targeted SB 777, a new law that prohibits "promoting a discriminatory bias" against gays and lesbians in all instructional materials and activities. The law also redefines gender into the state education code to include a person's "perceived" gender. Opponents of the law say the measure goes too far and could ban simple in-class references to moms and dads and other traditional family concepts.

"While we didn't reach the threshold of required signatures, we have surprised political observers with the amazing amount of signatures we gathered in just 70 days," England said. "It is unheard of for a volunteer-only effort to find this kind of support, especially in a state as large as California."

Despite the defeat, England said she was impressed by the passion and response of the drive and said that a second measure, this time through an initiative, has been filed with the state attorney general's office.

"This initiative will give us double the amount of time to gather signatures, while accomplishing the same goal of eliminating the extreme policies of SB 777," England said. "Many California citizens are just now finding out about SB 777 and are outraged. By filing an initiative, we will give even more citizens the opportunity to voice their anger over the passage of this radical bill."

An initiative bypasses the legislature altogether and asks the voters directly through a ballot proposition. The initiative process also allows supporters 150 days to collect the 434,000 signatures.

In the meantime, the state education department can begin implementing the new law unless a federal judge issues an injunction as a result of a lawsuit filed in December by the California Education Committee LLC. The plaintiffs, represented by Advocates for Faith & Freedom, include school board members, students, coaches and teachers. A hearing for that suit is set for Feb. 15 in San Diego.

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