Arkansas bans transgender people from using school bathrooms that match gender identity

Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a law on Tuesday banning transgender people in public schools from using restrooms that match their gender identity, the first of several states expected to address the trans community nationwide this year. Such restrictions would be enacted amid a flood of targeted bills.

The bill signed by a Republican governor makes Arkansas the fourth state to impose such restrictions in public schools, and it comes as bills in Idaho and Iowa await their governor’s signature. And then an even tougher Arkansas bill could be introduced that would criminalize transgender adults using public restrooms that match their gender identity.

The Arkansas law, which won’t go into effect until later this summer, applies to multi-person restrooms and locker rooms in public schools and charter schools serving pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. The Republican-majority Legislature gave final approval to the bill last week.

“The governor has said she will sign laws that focus on protecting and educating our children, not educating them, and that she believes our schools are an outlet for the radical left’s vigilante agenda. There are no places,” Sanders spokeswoman Alexa Henning said in a statement. “Arkansas is not going to rewrite the rules of biology just to please a handful of leftists.”

Similar laws have been enacted in Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee, although lawsuits have been filed challenging the Oklahoma and Tennessee bans.

Proposals to ban transgender people from using the restroom of their choice have seen a resurgence this year, with North Carolina six months into repealing its bathroom law after widespread protests and boycotts. Years later According to the Human Rights Campaign, more than two dozen bathroom bills have been introduced in 17 states.

“They’re singling out transgender people for no reason other than dislike, dislike and misunderstanding,” said Paul Castillo, senior attorney and student rights strategist at Lambda Legal. “And these types of bills hurt the entire school population, especially schools and teachers and administrators who are dealing with real issues and need to focus on creating a welcoming environment for every student.” Is.”

The proposals are among a record number of bills filed to limit the rights of transgender people. Ban on sex-affirming care of minors, Barring transgender girls from school sports and limiting drag shows. Transgender people have also faced increasingly hostile rhetoric in statehouses.

Another bill pending in Arkansas goes even further than North Carolina’s law by imposing criminal penalties. The proposal would allow someone to be charged with sexual misconduct with a child if they use a public restroom or opposite-sex changing room in the presence of a minor.

“It’s a clear message from them that they refuse to respect (transgender people’s) rights and humanity,” said Holly Dixon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas. do.”

A new Arkansas law requires schools to provide reasonable accommodations, including single-person restrooms. Superintendents, principals and teachers who violate the ban could face fines of at least $1,000 from a state panel, and parents could also file private lawsuits to enforce the measure.

“Every child in our schools has a right to privacy and to feel safe and comfortable in the bathroom they need to go to,” Republican Rep. Mary Bentley, the bill’s sponsor, said earlier this year. told lawmakers.

But Clayton Crockett, the father of a transgender child, described to lawmakers earlier this year how his daughter’s school adopted a similar policy that made him feel even more marginalized.

“She feels targeted, she feels discriminated against, she feels bullied, she feels alone,” Crockett said during a House panel hearing on the bill in January.

Opponents have also complained that the legislation does not provide funding for schools that may need to build single-person restrooms to provide adequate accommodations.

At least two federal appeals courts have upheld the rights of transgender students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. However, supporters of the bill have cited a federal appeals court ruling that upheld a similar policy in a Florida school district last year.

Arkansas’ measure won’t take effect until 90 days after this year’s session adjourns, which isn’t expected to happen until next month at the earliest.

Sanders signed the bill a week after passing legislation that would make it easier for minors to sue gender-affirming care providers. That law, which doesn’t go into effect until this summer, is an attempt to effectively restore a ban on such care for minors that a federal judge has put on hold.

Sanders also signed a sweeping education bill earlier this month that bans classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation before 5th grade. The ban is similar to Florida’s measure, which critics have called a “Don’t Say Gay” law.

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