California Parents Sue AG for Undermining Petition That Bans Sex Change Surgeries for Minors

Parents’ group says Rob Bonta rebranded initiative to mislead and confuse voters

California Attorney General Rob Bonta (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
February 16, 2024

California parents sued the state’s attorney general this week for allegedly spinning the language of their ballot initiative in a way that undercuts their effort to let voters weigh in on the state’s transgender policies for kids.

The parent group behind the initiative, Protect Kids California, alleges in a complaint that Democratic attorney general Rob Bonta, who is exploring a run for governor in 2026, purposefully rebranded their petition to mislead and confuse voters with biased language that makes it sound harmful to kids. The lawsuit states that he violated his duty to present Californians with clear and impartial ballot measures.

Bonta’s "calculated and unlawful use of negative and deceptive language have been and are impeding Petitioners from obtaining support for the Initiative," the complaint states.

The lawsuit comes with less than a month to go before the parent coalition must collect nearly 50,000 signatures to qualify their measure for the November ballot. As attorney general, Bonta is responsible for approving the language of all voter initiatives before their backers can collect signatures. California election law states that the ballot language circulated for voter approval must be impartial and should not "substantially mislead or misinform."

The initiative, which launched in the fall, would ban sex change drugs or surgeries for minors, prohibit schools from transitioning kids behind their parents’ backs, and prevent boys from competing in high school girls’ sports. Bonta titled the measure, "Restricts the Rights of Transgender Youth," and said its provision against secret school-led gender transitions makes no exceptions for student safety–even though the petition would not change existing laws that allow counselors to conceal gender identity issues when the child is in danger, or those requiring schools to report suspected abuse.

The attorney general’s language also said the petition would ban "gender-affirming health care," but the initiative's supporters say it does not preclude affirmative therapy—only physically irreversible drugs and surgeries.

Nearly 70 percent of Californians say schools should tell parents if their child wants to transition to a new gender at school, according to a May Rasmussen poll.

A majority of American voters, 78 percent—including 67 percent of Democrats—don’t think minors should be given sex-change drugs or surgeries. And 69 percent believe kids should play on the sports team matching their biological sex.

Protect Kids California notes that Bonta has shown he isn’t a disinterested party on the policies at stake since he is prosecuting a school district for its policy to tell parents if their kids are transitioning genders at school and has joined lawsuits against other states to defend allowing boys to compete in high school girls’ sports.

"Attorney General Bonta has repeatedly made his position clear—he is against the entire purpose of Protect Kids California’s initiative," Erin Friday, a Democratic San Francisco attorney who is helping spearhead the lawsuit, said in the press release for the challenge. "They did not stand a chance in receiving an impartial title and summary. Moreover, Bonta has an insurmountable conflict of interest given that he is a plaintiff, a defendant, and an amicus in multiple lawsuits dealing with related issues."

In a statement, a representative for Bonta said the attorney general's office takes the responsibility of writing ballot measure titles and summaries "seriously," and that they "stand by our title and summary for this measure." The representative declined to comment on pending litigation.