Human Rights Campaign condemns Wisconsin Republicans’ bathroom bill

Louis Weisberg, Staff writer

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization, condemned today’s decision by the Wisconsin Assembly’s Republican leadership to allow a hearing on legislation that the group contends would encourage discrimination against transgender students.

Assembly Bill 469, dubbed the “Student Privacy Protection Bill” by its backers and the “bathroom bill” by its critics, seeks to ban transgender students in K-12 schools from using the gender-segregated facilities that align with their gender identity rather than their birth gender. It would require school districts to repeal anti-discrimination reforms and accommodations policies.

The legislation contradicts best-practice recommendations from leading medical and mental health groups, civil rights organizations and education associations. It also conflicts with findings and guidelines from federal agencies — from Labor to Justice, HUD to Education.

HRC issued a press release stating that Assembly Bill 469 “puts trans students in harm’s way and puts school districts in conflict with federal law legislation that would expose trans and gender nonconforming students to heightened risk of bullying, harassment and discrimination. Not only is the bill shameful and horrific public policy, passing it would put the state in conflict with federal law.”

An earlier hearing on the bill was scheduled for Nov. 5, but postponed after by the U.S. Department of Education determined that a similar bill in Illinois violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

“This bill doesn’t belong on the floor of any state legislature — it belongs in the garbage,” said HRC legal director Sarah Warbelow.  “All members of the Wisconsin Assembly should be deeply concerned about how AB 469 will place transgender and gender non-conforming students at risk for discrimination and harassment. This reckless and irresponsible bill would put school districts and educators in direct conflict with federal law, creating unnecessary confusion and liability for schools all across Wisconsin. The legislature should abandon this proposal, focusing instead on creating an inclusive learning environment that enables all students to succeed, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

This year has seen an alarming uptick of anti-transgender state bills across the country, according to HRC. Bills aiming to restrict transgender Americans’ access to public accommodations, school activities, or appropriate medical care have been introduced in Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas, South Dakota, Minnesota, Connecticut and South Carolina.

“Fortunately, each of these harmful state bills was defeated in 2015, although such legislation is likely to be reintroduced next year,” HRC said.