Senate Approves Leyva Bill Promoting Equity for Girls State and Boys State Participants

Young Women Pay Fees, Do Not Visit Sacramento and Have Limited Program Opportunities Compared to Young Men

Monday, May 17, 2021

SACRAMENTO – To ensure equity for civic education and leadership programs that have long limited full access and participation to young women, the California State Senate today approved a legislative proposal by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) to end unfair and discriminatory treatment of Girls State participants.

Specifically, Senate Bill 363 will require the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary—in their respective Boys State and Girls State programs—to offer substantially similar curriculum and access to government officials / facilities, an equal number of opportunities for girls as there are for boys, equal limitations on the number of students nominated per school and allow non-binary students to apply to either program.

“SB 363 will finally end the current gender-based discrimination that offers lesser program opportunities to the young women participating in Girls State compared to the young men attending Boys State,” Senator Leyva said.  “Clearly, gender parity in civic education and leadership opportunities does not typically happen by virtue of chance or time.  Sometimes, only the force of law will change decades-long behavior that is discriminatory and unacceptable.”

Young men attending California Boys State in Sacramento each summer (except during public health or other emergencies) are able to participate in a mock legislative process, visit the State Capitol to tour the building and meet with legislators and staff—while young women attending California Girls State do not have similar opportunities.Also held during the summer, California Girls State hosts its own program at a college campus in Southern California hundreds of miles away from the state capital and the center of California’s legislative process.

Though California Girls State participants are currently able to experience some of the same aspects of the civics education and leadership opportunities as California Boys State attendees, inequitable treatment still remains.For example, California Boys State applicants pay no fees to apply to the program, while California Girls State applicants must pay a $75 application fee. California Boys State has also previously hosted a college night where the young men were able to meet directly with representatives from various colleges and career paths, while California Girls State participants did not have similar access during their program week. Additionally, California Boys State attendees were also provided direct access to government and law enforcement officials in Sacramento where they gained insight and potential career opportunities that were not available to California Girls State participants.

Sponsored by Equal Rights Advocates, SB 363 is supported by California Federation of Teachers, California Women’s Law Center, IGNITE National, National Women’s Political Caucus of California, Public Counsel and Women’s Foundation California.