California Education Committee, LLC, et al. v. O'Connell

Summary

After the antigay organizations Advocates for Faith and Freedom and the Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit challenging California’s hate crimes laws and anti-discrimination protections for students, Lambda Legal and its co-counsel have sought to defend these laws by representing Equality California and the Gay Straight Alliance Network – two organizations that have been instrumental in advocating for antidiscrimination protections in California’s schools. The lawsuit challenges California’s hate crimes laws and Senate Bill 777, which was enacted in 2007 to clarify and reinforce the antidiscrimination protections that California’s LGBT students have relied on for years. We are seeking to ensure that this mean-spirited lawsuit does not weaken the antiharassment and antidiscrimination protections LGBT students currently have under California law.

Related cases, in chronological order:

  • California Education Committee, et al. v. Arnold Schwarzenegger, et al. (U.S. District Court, Southern District of California)
  • California Education Committee, et al. v. Arnold Schwarzenegger, et al. (San Diego Superior Court)
  • California Education Committee, LLC, et al. v. O'Connell (Sacramento Superior Court)

Context

Recent surveys indicate that well over 200,000 students in California are harassed every year based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, and many other students are harassed because of their gender identity. Antidiscrimination protections like the ones California has enacted are critical to ensuring that LGBT students have the same opportunity as others to thrive in school.

Lambda Legal's Impact

Lambda Legal has worked for more than three decades to ensure that LGBT students have the right to be safe and respected in school. Lambda Legal and co-counsel are seeking in this lawsuit to ensure that California’s protections for LGBT students, which have dramatically improved the environment for LGBT students for many years, are not rolled back.

History

  • November 2007 Advocates for Faith and Freedom and the Alliance Defense Fund file a complaint in federal court seeking to overturn California’s hate crimes laws and antidiscrimination protections for LGBT students.
  • December 2007 Lambda Legal and co-counsel ask the court for permission to intervene on behalf of Equality California and the Gay Straight Alliance Network to defend California’s protections for LGBT students.
  • January 2008 California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown, Jr. files a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint.
  • January 2008 Lambda Legal and co-counsel file a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the attorney general's motion to dismiss and asking the court to dismiss plaintiffs' lawsuit.
  • February 2008 Plaintiffs voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit in federal court and refile in San Diego Superior Court.
  • June 2008 Lambda Legal and co-counsel file a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the attorney general's motion to dismiss and asking the court to dismiss plaintiffs' lawsuit.
  • November 2008 Plaintiffs voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court and re-file in Sacramento Superior Court.
  • January 2009 California Superintendent Jack O'Connel files motion seeking to dismiss plaintiffs' case.
  • March 2009 Lambda Legal and co-counsel file a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Superintendent O'Connell's motion to dismiss.
  • June 2009 Victory! Trial judge dismisses the plaintiffs' case, affirming California's antidiscrimination protections for LGBT students.

Case Information

Status: Closed

Attorneys

Lambda Legal
Jon W. Davidson, Tara Borelli

Co-counsel/Cooperating Attorneys
Robert S. Gerber of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, LLP; Shannon Minter, Ilona Turner and Jody Marksamer of the National Center for Lesbian Rights; David C. Codell of the Law Offices of David C. Codell; Kristina Wertz of the Transgender Law Center