Foes look to overturn gay rights legislation

SACRAMENTO -- Opponents launched a referendum campaign this week to overturn Gov. Schwarzenegger's signature on legislation touted as an anti-discrimination measure for gay and lesbian students.

"Citizens are outraged," said Karen England, who launched the drive and directs Capitol Resource Institute, a conservative public policy group that focuses on family issues.

Geoff Kors, director of a gay rights group that sponsored the measure, Senate Bill 777, blasted the drive as nonsense.

"They claim to want to foster family values and education and what's best for children," he said. "Yet they oppose legislation to make schools safer for children."

England filed a referendum petition Monday against SB 777 with the state attorney general's office, the first step in a 90-day process that requires collection of 433,971 valid voter signatures to qualify for the June ballot.

State law prohibits SB 777 from taking effect Jan. 1, as scheduled, pending completion of the referendum campaign. Schwarzenegger signed the Republican-opposed bill Oct. 12.

Opponents argue the measure would, among other things, force schools to allow boys to use girls' restrooms or run for homecoming queen.

"What they're saying about the bill is crazy," Kors countered.

SB 777 was one of more than a half-dozen gay rights bills signed by Schwarzenegger, including measures to require monitoring of school anti-discrimination policies and to simplify the process for domestic partners to change their last name.

Schwarzenegger rejected legislation to allow same-sex partners to marry.