Leyva Bill Promoting Equity for Girls State and Boys State Participants Heads to Governor’s Desk

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

Thursday, September 2, 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 gave approval today to legislation authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) that seeks to end the unfair and discriminatory treatment of Girls State participants.  Following passage by the Legislature, Senate Bill 363 now advances to the Governor for consideration.

Sponsored by Equal Rights Advocates, 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. 

“The purpose behind SB 363 is clear: the equally prepared Girls State participants should not have lesser opportunities than Boys State participants simply because they are women,” Senator Leyva said.  “I appreciate that both the Senate and Assembly agree that gender-based discrimination in these programs is wrong and hurts young women across California.  Now just one step away from becoming law, SB 363 reinforces the fundamental belief that all students—regardless of their gender—should have equitable access to civic education and leadership opportunities across our state.”

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.

California Girls State participants are presently able to experience some of the same aspects of the civics education and leadership opportunities as California Boys State participants, though inequitable treatment still exists.For example, California Boys State applicants pay no fees to apply to the program, while California Girls State applicants must pay a $50 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 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.

SB 363 is supported by the California Federation of Teachers, California Women’s Law Center, IGNITE National, National Women’s Political Caucus of California, Public Counsel, Veteran’s Alliance of Orange County and Women’s Foundation California.