State legislatures are gearing up to reconvene and many are eager to consider anti-transgender legislation that resembles North Carolina’s HB2. This week, several states threw their hat into the ring with new bills designed to demonize and discriminate against transgender people.
Each bill has its own flavor, but here’s a general overview of the components that many of them contain:
- Public building bathroom mandate: First introduced in North Carolina’s HB2, this is a provision that dictates that any public (i.e. government-run) building must prohibit transgender people from using bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity.
- Public school bathroom mandate: This provision mandates that all public schools must prohibit transgender students from accessing facilities or otherwise being recognized in accordance with their gender identity.
- Civil liability: This provision creates an intimidating civil liability for schools or government entities, meaning, for example, that families can sue for monetary damages if the schools accommodate transgender students.
Texas (SB 6)
Martin Luther King said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter."
— Office of the Lt Gov (@LtGovTX) January 5, 2017
Introduced by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R), the so-called Texas Privacy Act largely mirrors North Carolina’s HB2. It blatantly prohibits any “political subdivision” (e.g. city, count, etc.) from passing a policy that treats access to bathroom facilities any differently than the bill does. This would supercede “gender identity” protections already on the books in cities like Dallas, Fort Worth, and Austin.
Like HB2, SB6 prohibits transgender accommodations in both public buildings and public schools and universities, but also adds civil liabilities. Families would be able to sue schools for allowing trans students to use bathrooms that match their gender for up to $10,000. The state can likewise hold school funding in jeopardy if violations of the law are found.
SB6 also blocks local governments from considering whether a business has anti-trans policies when deciding leases and contracts. In an interview with the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins Thursday afternoon, Patrick boasted that this provision promotes “free enterprising” by “leaving it up to the businesses” whether to discriminate against transgender people.
The unique flavor of SB6 is its increased penalties for any crime committed in a bathroom or changing facility. Any crime would be punished with the sentence for the next highest punishment, and a first degree felony would be punished with a minimum of 15 years in jail. Clearly designed to intimidate transgender people from even attempting to access these facilities, the offenses include “public lewdness,” “indecent exposure,” and “criminal trespass,” among many others listed.
In Patrick’s statement accompanying the bill’s introduction, he claimed, “This issue is not about discrimination — it’s about public safety, protecting businesses and common sense.” Kolkhorst added, “This is a significant step for the majority of Texans who are alarmed by misguided efforts to shatter our expectations of security and privacy, especially for our children.” Of course, there’s zero evidence that protecting trans people from discrimination in any way endangers anybody.
Virginia (HB 1612)
Del. Bob Marshall (R) — known as “Sideshow Bob” for his narrow focus on his extreme social conservative positions and proposals — introduced HB 1612 this week. Like SB6, it mirrors HB2 pretty closely, restricting bathroom access in both public buildings and public schools. It does not, however, explicitly preempt local LGBT protections.
But Marshall’s bill does add a civil liability, allowing people to sue if transgender people are allowed access to restrooms and they thus feel their “physical privacy” has been violated. Unlike similar provisions considered in other states, it does not dictate how much should be awarded in damages in such cases.
The unique flavor of Marshall’s bill is its “parental notification” section, which explicitly requires schools to out transgender kids to their parents. If a child makes any request to be recognized as the opposite sex — including a change of name, pronouns, or facility usage — schools would be required to notify their parent or guardian within 24 hours.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) responded by promising to veto any such bill. He also issued an executive order this week protecting LGBT employees of state contractors from discrimination. Meanwhile, a transgender journalist Danica Roem has announced that she will run for Marshall’s seat.
Kentucky (HB 106)
Kentucky Rep. Rick Nelson (D) has introduced two bills threatening LGBT rights, HB 105 and HB 106. HB 105 is a “religious liberty” bill that would protect vendors from governmental punishment if they discriminate, and HB 106 targets transgender bathroom usage.
The bill simply mandates that all public restrooms and facilities in the state must be separated on the basis of biological sex, thus prohibiting transgender people from using restrooms that coincide with their gender identity. Like Texas’ SB6, it doesn’t bother with a preemption clause and instead just requires every governing board to implement the bathroom regulations. It also applies to all boards of education.
The Democratic lawmaker explained, “I just want to make sure those bills are out there in case the other side decides not to do them. I support them and think they’re pretty good.”
Last May, Alabama Sen. Phil Williams (R) introduced his own version of an anti-trans bathroom bill, and just before the holidays, he refiled it as SB1 for the 2017 session.
SB1 claims to protect the “physical and emotional security” and “right to privacy” of Alabama citizens by creating three options for how any public bathroom in the state may be set up. It can be single-use, it can refuse access to transgender people, or it can be unisex and staffed with a security attendant.
The bill also creates a civil liability if these bathroom restrictions are not enforced. For example, if a multi-use bathroom allows transgender people access but doesn’t have gender police outside, individuals who feel violated by a transgender person’s presence can sue for up to $2,000, with an additional $3,500 fine for each subsequent violation.
Back in May, Williams defended his bill because he was concerned that people would “claim a gender preference or identity other than the one with which they were born” in order to violate the space.
South Carolina (HB 3012)
Newly elected South Carolina Rep. Steven Wayne Long (R) prefiled his anti-transgender bill before the holidays. HB 3012 is limited compared to the other bills, focusing only on a bathroom mandate for all local governments. No municipality or other political subdividsion could pass a law guaranteeing transgender people access to restrooms that match their gender identity.
Long explained that he didn’t want to go as far as North Carolina’s HB2, which is why his bill only prohibits cities and counties from making rules “that would force a business owner to do something that they don’t want to do.”
Washington (HB 1011)
Last year, conservatives failed to advance a ballot initiative that would have rolled back transgender protections already in place in the state of Washington. In December, Rep. David Taylor (R) and several other Republicans introduced HB 1011 on behalf of those conservatives.
HB 1011 creates a special exception to the state’s nondiscrimination ordinance to allow entities to restrict bathroom access to a person “if the person is preoperative, nonoperative, or otherwise has genitalia of a different gender from that for which the facility is segregated.”
This explicit focus on genitalia discriminates against the many transgender people who cannot afford such surgeries, do not require such surgeries as part of their transition, or who are avoiding such surgeries because they do not wish to sacrifice their reproductive ability. The group Washington Won’t Discriminate, which opposed the ballot initiated, already has a petition underway urging lawmakers to oppose the bill.
Missouri (HB 202 and SB 98)
A pair of bills have been introduced in Missouri targeting transgender people for discrimination, one specifically addressing schools and the other impacting all public restrooms in the state.
Rep. Jeff Pogue (R) reintroduced a bill that he has put forth in years past. Now known as HB 202, the bill simply mandates that “all public restrooms, other than single occupancy public restrooms, shall be designated as gender-divided restrooms.” It states that all municipalities and businesses in the state must abide by that policy.
Minnesota (HF 41)
Now that Republicans won back control of the Minnesota legislature, they have a vast agenda. Among the many bills they will consider is one restricting bathroom access for transgender students. HF 41, the so-called “Student Physical Privacy Act,” asserts that it is intended to “maintain order and dignity” in school facilities.
The bill’s singular focus is prohibiting transgender students from accessing restrooms that align with their gender identity. Schools would only provide accommodations such as single-occupancy facilities or “controlled use of faculty facilities,” further ostracizing transgender students.
Andy Birkey at The Column notes that a similar bill passed the Minnesota House last year, but did not advance to become a law. Even with Republican control of the legislature, Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) could still veto it.