Activists in Kern County have collected 17,244 signatures in hopes of qualifying a ballot measure that would repeal a controversial new law passed to protect transgendered students.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1266 into law in August, but opponents hope to repeal it before it goes into effect on Jan. 1.
The law mandates that K-12 schools allow transgendered students access to the restrooms, locker rooms and sports teams of the gender with which they identify, regardless of their physical anatomy.
Proponents say the law is designed to make all children feel included at school.
The law caught many local parents off-guard. After angrily storming school board meetings, some began organizing an effort to get a measure on the next statewide ballot.
"It's a ridiculous law and I think it should be repealed," said Kathy O'Brien, a Bakersfield resident who helped circulate petitions. "It's an invasion of privacy for the other students.
"I know people who are pulling their kids out of school and home-schooling over this."
In order for the measure to make the next statewide election ballot, AB 1266 opponents needed to collect 504,760 valid signatures by Nov. 10.
Activists all over the state have turned in their petitions to county election officials, and they're now being counted. The California Secretary of State's office hasn't heard from all counties yet.
The Kern County Elections Division says the signatures turned in here are just a raw count. Signatures will need to be verified before the measure can be put before voters.
The Pacific Justice Institute, a religious-rights organization that helped spearhead the effort along with a coalition of conservative groups and churches, was upbeat going into the count.
"We're feeling very optimistic that we have been able to obtain the number of signatures necessary to have this matter suspended from going into effect Jan. 1 and be voted on by the people of California in November of 2014," said institute President Brad Dacus.
Most of these signatures were gathered from volunteers going out of their way to do this. It was not the result of paid signature gatherers, Dacus said.
"We're very grateful to the many who volunteered so many hours to get this done and we're feeling good that it will be sufficient but it will be a few weeks before we know," he said.