“Bathroom fears flush Houston ordinance.” Such headlines circulated on Nov. 4, the morning after voters went to the polls in Houston and rejected a broad measure — the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, better known as HERO — intended to protect 15 classes of people from discrimination.
The Human Rights Campaign called the defeat at the polls devastating for the people of Houston and a setback for the LGBT civil rights movement.
The measure had strong support from local politicians and the business community, but was challenged by a conservative faction that dubbed it the “bathroom ordinance” and argued it would allow predatory men to invade women’s restrooms.
A “Weekend Update” segment on Saturday Night Live on Nov. 14 ridiculed the Fox-influenced right-wing campaign against the ordinance. “So the theory is that guys, in their relentless quest to watch women go to the bathroom, are going through years of hormones, surgery, changing their names, their wardrobe, coming out to their families, all for that big payoff of peeing in a room without urinals. What is this fantasy that they think is going on in there?” said actor Pete Davidson.
Yet, as ludicrous as it seems, that was the argument to win over about 61 percent of those who cast ballots on Election Day in Houston.
Of course, the opponents of HERO were peddling lies about its intent and its potential impact, just as Wisconsin Republicans, seeking to advance a “bathroom bill,” are circulating fiction as fact and playing up gross and harmful stereotypes, casting transgender kids as deviants, perverts and predators.
Once a pioneering state on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, Wisconsin lacks a statewide law banning bias based on gender identity. What exists are partial piece-meal protections in more progressive communities and more progressive school districts.
Now, Republicans are keyed up to roll back limited protections for transgender students in dozens of districts and halt any further reform.
AB 469, the Student Privacy Protection Bill, seeks to ban transgender students in K-12 schools from using the gender-segregated facilities that align with their gender identity and would require school districts to repeal anti-discrimination reforms and accommodations policies. The legislation is contrary to best-practice recommendations from leading medical and mental health groups, civil rights organizations and education associations. And the proposal is in conflict with findings and guidelines from federal agencies — from Labor to Justice, HUD to Education.
In Early November, the U.S. Department of Education issued a landmark ruling, finding that a suburban Chicago school district discriminated against a transgender student on the basis of her sex.
In junior high, the girl was denied access to the girl’s locker room and the girl’s restroom. This treatment caused her to be bullied on a daily basis and her parents vowed that she would not suffer the same in high school. They legally changed the child’s name, obtained a corrected passport that identified the child as female and submitted medical records to the school.
The result? The girl was still denied access to the girl’s locker room and disciplined when she did use the girl’s facilities.
The Education Department, after a lengthy investigation, concluded the school district violated federal law by denying a girl access to a gender-appropriate locker room for changing clothes simply because she is transgender. The decision placed school districts across the nation on notice that Title IX requires making such facilities available for students who are transgender.
The girl, known in the ACLU’s legal challenge as “Student A,” has hopes that “no other student, anywhere, is forced to confront this indignity.”
But if the ill-informed anatomy police succeed and AB 469 becomes law in Wisconsin, more students will suffer and students will be forced to confront indignities.
Tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m., the Assembly Committee on Education will hold their first hearing on AB 469, which would target transgender Wisconsin students for unfair treatment.
Before the legislators take up this dangerous bill for the first time tomorrow, they need to hear from you, their constituents.
Take a minute right now and click here to email your lawmakers directly before tomorrow’s critical hearing.