HomeUS News updateArkansas Senate OKs transgender bathroom bill that critics call extreme

Arkansas Senate OKs transgender bathroom bill that critics call extreme

A bill that would criminalize transgender people for using restrooms matching their gender identity won preliminary approval in the Arkansas Legislature on Tuesday, a ban critics said would be the most extreme in the country.

The bill, approved by a majority-Republican Senate on a 19-7 vote, would allow someone to be charged with misdemeanor sexual indecency with a child if they used a public restroom or changing room of the “opposite sex” while knowing a minor of the opposite sex. Are. Exists.” The bill now heads to the majority-GOP House.

The law goes even further than a North Carolina bathroom law that was enacted in 2016 and later repealed after widespread boycotts and protests. That law did not include any criminal penalties.

“This is an attack on the continued existence of transgender people in public, and the criminalization of being transgender in public,” said Catherine Oakley, state legislative director and senior attorney for the Human Rights Campaign.

The bill comes amid a spate of bills targeting transgender people and increasingly hostile rhetoric against trans people in state houses. According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 155 bills targeting the rights of trans people have been introduced so far this year.

Republican Sen. John Payton, the sponsor of the Arkansas bill, framed the measure as narrow because it would apply only if minors are present and acknowledged that it would be difficult to prosecute someone for violating the ban.

Prior to the vote, Peyton said, “I don’t see this as a bill that stops people from going to the wrong bathroom.” “Hopefully this will limit it when children are present.”

But Sen. Joshua Bryant, the only Republican who voted against the bill, said the measure would allow anyone to be prosecuted regardless of their intent. He compared it to charging someone with armed robbery if they carry a concealed handgun in a building where it is not allowed.

Bryant also noted that the bill would also apply to a transgender person who has undergone full gender confirmation surgery.

Bryant said, “I may not understand why he did it, I may not agree with why he did it, but it was his decision as an adult.”

The proposal narrowly passed approval in the 35-member Senate, with several Republican lawmakers not voting on the measure, another GOP senator voting “present” — which has the same effect as voting numbers.

Despite the backlash over North Carolina’s now-repealed bathroom bill, there has been a resurgence of similar restrictions proposed by GOP lawmakers. So far this year, 11 states have introduced at least 17 bills to limit who can use bathrooms.

Another bill pending in the Arkansas Legislature would prevent transgender people in public schools from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Similar laws have been enacted in Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Lawsuits have been filed challenging the Oklahoma and Tennessee bans.

The bill approved by the Senate on Tuesday has some exemptions, including for parents and guardians with children under the age of 7.

Even with that exemption, the bill would be a difficult choice for transgender activist Miss Major Griffin-Gracie and her partner, Beck Major, who is also transgender. The Little Rock couple has a two-year-old son and will ultimately have to decide whether to send him to a public restroom alone rather than accompanying him and being charged under the law.

“These are two terrible choices for parents to make,” Beck Major said. “What would you choose?”

The law also concerns Kathy Brown-Nichols of Arkansas, who describes herself as a butch lesbian and said she is regularly harassed when she uses women’s restrooms in public because of her appearance. goes and inquires. Brown-Nicholls said she worries that harassment will only increase if the proposed ban becomes law.

“They’re putting a big bullseye on different people,” she said.



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