Tag Archives: bathroom

Transgender student sues Kenosha school district

A transgender student filed a federal lawsuit alleging the Kenosha school district won’t let him use the boys’ restrooms and repeatedly uses his female birth name, violating federal anti-discrimination laws and the U.S. Constitution.

The Transgender Law Center and the civil rights law firm Relman, Dane and Colfax PLLC filed the lawsuit this week in Milwaukee against the Kenosha school district.

The filing states Ashton Whitaker, a 16-year-old student at Tremper High School, was designated a girl on his birth certificate but began identifying as a boy in middle school.

The lawsuit alleges the district has denied him access to boys’ restrooms and directed staff to monitor his restroom usage, forcing him and other transgender students to wear green wristbands to help staff recognize them.

As a result, Whitaker drastically reduced his liquid intake, aggravating a medical condition that causes him to faint, and suffered stress migraines.

Teachers also continue to call him by his female birth name, he had to room with girls on an orchestra trip to Europe and the principal initially denied him the ability to run for junior prom king, telling him he could run only for prom queen, according to the lawsuit.

School administrators relented only after his classmates protested, the lawsuit noted.

The district’s actions violate Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, as well as the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantees, the lawsuit argues.

Whitaker said in a news release that the district’s actions have made his life miserable and he’s worried about how he’ll navigate his upcoming senior year.

A message left at the school district wasn’t immediately returned.

Wisconsin is one of several conservative-led states suing President Barack Obama’s administration over its directive to public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms that match their gender identity.

Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin tried to pass a bill during the 2015-16 legislative session that would have made it the first state in the nation to force public school students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their birth gender. The measure went nowhere.

At least 13 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity in schools. Hundreds of school districts, from Anchorage, Alaska, and Tucson, Arizona, to Fairfax County, Virginia and Chicago, have adopted similar protections.

At least two other transgender students have filed lawsuits similar to Whitaker’s seeking the right to use bathrooms and locker rooms.

Gavin Grimm filed a lawsuit in Virginia seeking the right to use the boys’ bathroom at his high school. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Grimm in April, ruling the judge who had rejected his claim ignored the Obama administration’s rule. The school board has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.

A 14-year-old Maryland middle school student filed a federal lawsuit, also this week, alleging school officials have barred him from using the boys’ restrooms and locker rooms.

On the other side of the issue, dozens of families filed a federal lawsuit in May to stop Township High School District 211 in suburban Chicago from allowing a transgender student who was born a boy but identifies as a girl from using the girls’ locker room.

Wisconsin joins federal lawsuit over transgender bathroom policy

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General Brad Schimel on May 25 joined the state in a lawsuit seeking to block federal protections for transgender people.

Critics called the lawsuit frivolous and mean-spirited and accused Walker, Schimel and others of political grandstanding.

“The lawsuit is an attack from 11 states on transgender Americans, plain and simple,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and HIV Project. “While the Obama administration is being sued, the real targets here are vulnerable young people and adults who simply seek to live their lives free from discrimination when they go to school, work or the restroom.”

The lawsuit

The complaint was filed following determinations from the Education Department and other federal agencies that state and local government cannot discriminate against transgender people in public accommodations — including bathrooms.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has been indicted for securities fraud, led the filing in U.S. District Court.

Paxton said the Obama administration is seeking to expand the definition of “sex” to include “gender identity” to make radical changes in intimate areas of schools.

His complaint attacks guidance from the U.S. Department of Education that says federal law requires public schools to protect transgender students from discrimination.

“Our local schools are now in the crosshairs of the Obama administration, which maintains it will punish those schools who do not comply with its orders,” Paxton said. “These schools are facing the potential loss of school funding for simply following common sense policies that protect their students.”

In addition to Texas and Wisconsin, the states that joined in the lawsuit are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.

The complaint also challenges guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration concerning transgender employees and seeks to undermine the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s determination that federal employment nondiscrimination law covers transgender employees.

“President Obama’s attempts to rewrite the laws of our country without congressional consent and approval are not going to be tolerated by the State of Wisconsin,” Schimel said in a statement. “After discussing with Gov. Walker, I have decided to join my colleagues from across the country in challenging the Obama administration’s latest power grab, which will have a significant impact on Wisconsin.”

A spokesman for Walker said the governor granted Schimel’s request to join the lawsuit to challenge the president’s unlawful use of executive power.

The reaction

The response from civil rights leaders and progressive politicians was swift.

The lawsuit “is dangerous political grandstanding that has put a target on the backs of transgender Americans in schools and workplaces across the country,” said Sarah Warbelow, the legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group.

She said the guidance recently issued by the Education and Justice departments was to clarify federal law and was requested by educators.

Warbelow said the states’ lawsuit misrepresents the guidance and the law.

A coalition of national organizations — together they represent about 5 million educators, pediatricians, counselors and other child welfare providers — also responded, with a letter that urged Paxton and other public officials to stop attempting to make political gains by attacking transgender people.

The American Federation of Teachers, American Academy of Pediatrics; American Counseling Association, National Association of School Psychologists and National Education Association signed the statement.

The lawsuit was filed as Republicans and Democrats gear up for major electoral battles over control of the White House, Congress, state capitol, as well as city councils and school boards.

Esseks called the complaint a political stunt.

“Our civil rights laws, including Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, have long prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex and federal courts and agencies have long recognized that this includes protections for transgender people,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, said she was “deeply dismayed” to learn Walker and Schimel joined “yet another frivolous and politically motivated lawsuit against the Obama administration.”

While Moore expressed dismay, she said she was not surprised. The Walker administration also has joined suits to block federal antipollution efforts and to overturn the Affordable Care Act and the president’s executive orders on immigration.

Neither was U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, who is gay and co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. Pocan, in a statement May 25, said, “While Gov. Walker and Schimel may couch this decision in protecting Wisconsin’s interests, nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s a poor and pitiful attempt to catch a dying wave of shameful political attacks on transgender youth, in an effort to advance an antiquated ideology.”

Pocan encouraged people not to “lose sight of the fact that these are students who want nothing more than to live authentic lives free of discrimination.”

Reject bigotry against transgender people

Fortunately, a “bathroom bill” proposed by Wisconsin Republicans during the last legislative session went nowhere. The bill would have forced transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates rather than the genders with which they identify.

But the issue isn’t dead in Wisconsin. State Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewauskum, says he’ll introduce a bill even stronger than last year’s — one that applies not only to student facilities but to public restrooms everywhere in the state.

JoCasta Zamarripa represents Wisconsin’s 8th Assembly District. She’s one of the state’s four openly LGBT legislators.
JoCasta Zamarripa represents Wisconsin’s 8th Assembly District. She’s one of the state’s four openly LGBT legislators.

These bills are not reactions to anything that actually happened in Wisconsin. They’re cookie-cutter bills that are part of a national attack by the religious right on transgender people. Kremer is just the messenger boy.

The bills’ supporters claim they’re protecting the public from sexual predators who want to infiltrate restrooms for deviant purposes. That myth might excite voters who harbor deep prejudices against LGBT people but it is not based in fact.

The reality is transgender people are the ones who need protection. They suffer from high rates of violence, suicide and homelessness.

In Wisconsin, three transgender high school students — Skylar Marcus Lee, Cameron Langrell and  Mindy Fabian — took their lives within the past few years because of the bullying and hate they faced. In effect, bathroom bills provide official sanction to those who would discriminate, resulting in more bullying and more tragedies.

Transgender students are much more likely to be victimized in settings where their gender identity is most emphasized, such as bathrooms.  As a result of being forced into the uncomfortable situations mandated by bathroom bills, transgender students are more likely to be tardy or absent from school, to have lower grades and to be physically bullied by their classmates.

Even if you can’t empathize with the plight of transgender children, the state would suffer financially if Kremer’s bill becomes law.

North Carolina recently passed a “bathroom bill,” and the fallout has been swift.  National conventions have been canceled, as have some Fortune 500 expansions.

The U.S. Department of Justice declared that North Carolina’s bill violates the Civil Rights Act and Title IX. If the state enforces the bill, it could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. With Wisconsin dead last in the Midwest for job growth, our state can’t afford such losses.

Kremer’s bill addresses a non-existent threat but it will have real-life consequences. Is this the Wisconsin we want?

JoCasta Zamarripa represents Wisconsin’s 8th Assembly District. She’s one of the state’s four openly LGBT legislators.

Have an opinion to share with WiG? Email lweisberg@www.wisconsingazette.com.

 

Alabama city votes to repeal ‘bathroom’ ordinance

The city council in Oxford, Alabama, has voted 3-2 to repeal a new ordinance that would have prevented transgender people from using public restroom facilities consistent with their gender identity.

This measure was unprecedented in its establishment of criminal penalties for violations — including a $500 fine or six months in jail — and raised privacy and legal concerns regarding how the law would have been enforced.

The council’s action during a special meeting this week came within a 10-day recall window.

Also, the ordinance had not yet been signed by the mayor.

“It’s a great day in the state of Alabama and we commend Councilperson Charlotte Hubbard for leading the recall effort,” said HRC Alabama state director Eva Walton Kendrick in a news release.

She continued, “This sends a welcome message of inclusion to Oxford’s families, businesses and visitors, and sets an example for other communities that may be considering similar legislation. Fair-minded Americans do not believe in discrimination, and we must continue to educate one another on the importance of being inclusive and welcoming to all.”

Prior to the council vote, the ACLU issued a series of statements on the issue:

“I love the City of Oxford. While I don’t wish to fight the city, my son is worth fighting for. I hope the council does the right thing and recalls this ordinance,” said Oxford resident Sherry Matthews, whose transgender son would have been impacted by the ordinance.

“This proposed ordinance, like the hundreds we’ve seen introduced in legislatures across the country, many of which we are challenging, will do nothing to protect privacy or public safety, but will unfortunately harm Oxford residents and others who come here — solely based on who they are. We urge the city council to stand on the right side of history and indeed on the right side of the law and not write discrimination into law,” said Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama.

“Discrimination has no place in 21st century Alabama. Yet, that was the path taken by the Oxford City Council when it voted to criminalize transgender people for simply using the restroom,” said Chinyere Ezie, staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Ezie continued: “Misunderstanding and fear should never guide public policy decisions. Transgender people, like anybody else, should not be treated differently simply because of who they are. Fortunately, city council members have the opportunity to repeal this ordinance. Not only is repeal the right thing to do, it will protect city taxpayers from a potentially expensive lawsuit.”

The council’s decision to recall the ordinance comes as similar proposals are being rejected at the state and local level across the country.

Earlier this week, the city council in Rockwall, Texas, unanimously rejected a measure proposed by Mayor Jim Pruitt that would have prohibited transgender people from using restrooms consistent with their gender identities.

Scores of community members also came to speak out against that proposal.

Also, earlier this year, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard earlier this year vetoed legislation that limited restroom use for transgender children in public schools, and last month, the sponsor of a similar bill in Tennessee announced plans to pull the legislation from consideration this legislative session.

With its passage of the anti-transgender HB2, North Carolina became the first state to enact this type of legislation.

The state is facing a federal court challenge and fierce backlash and this week the U.S. Department of Justice notified Gov. Pat McCrory that the law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act.

Justice Department: N.C. anti-LGBT measure violates civil rights law

The U.S. Justice Department said this week that North Carolina’s law limiting protections for LGBT people violates federal civil rights laws.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said the Obama administration’s warning means the issue is no longer confined to North Carolina and could affect other states.

Here’s a look at legislation around the country:

ALABAMA: Alabama lawmakers unsuccessfully pushed a measure to prevent the state from refusing to license childcare service providers who decline services that conflict with their religious beliefs. Religious organizations contract with the state to provide some childcare services, and opponents of the proposal have argued that the bill could be used to exclude gay and lesbian couples from adopting children or being foster parents. The bills were indefinitely postponed.

ALASKA: In Alaska, during the current Legislature, bills barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity have gone nowhere, and bills to allow clergy to refuse to solemnize a marriage without being subject to criminal or civil liability failed to gain traction before the scheduled end of the 90-day session. Lawmakers remain in extended session but have narrowed their focus to budget and revenue bills.

ARKANSAS: Arkansas lawmakers last year approved a revised version of a religious objections measure after the initial version faced widespread criticism that it was anti-LGBT. The Legislature also enacted a law aimed at preventing cities and counties from passing anti-discrimination measures that include sexual orientation or gender identity.

COLORADO: Colorado lawmakers introduced a bill in February that would have blocked the state from taking any action that may burden a person’s religious freedom unless it was the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest. A House committee indefinitely postponed discussion on the bill.

FLORIDA: Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a law stating that clergy, churches, religious schools and other religious organizations cannot be required to marry people or allow their facilities to be used for marriage celebrations that violate “a sincerely held religious belief.” The law takes effect July 1.

GEORGIA: Republican Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a bill that would have prohibited the government from imposing penalties on religious schools and organizations that chose not to employ or serve people based on their sincerely held religious beliefs. The proposal would have also protected clergy who declined to perform weddings for gay and lesbian couples.

HAWAII: A bill to prevent insurers and health care providers from discriminating against transgender patients has passed both chambers of the Legislature, and has been sent to Gov. David Ige. The measure prohibits denying, canceling or limiting coverage for services including care related to gender transition, under certain conditions. Several lawmakers also introduced bills to protect the freedom to express religious beliefs by prohibiting the state from taking discriminatory action based on the person’s moral convictions, but the bills were never granted a hearing.

ILLINOIS: Chicago Public Schools will allow transgender students and employees to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their gender identities. Related, there is a lawsuit by families against a suburban Chicago school district over allowing transgender students to use a girls’ locker room. Illinois lawmakers are advancing a bill to let transgender people change the gender marker on their birth certificate without having to undergo a sex-change operation first. The bill is awaiting action by the full House, where it’s expected to pass before proceeding to the Senate.

INDIANA: Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill last year barring government entities from substantially burdening the religious exercise of individuals, organizations and businesses, unless by the least restrictive means to further a compelling government interest. After businesses raised concerns, Pence signed an amended version stating that the law cannot be used to deny services, public accommodations, employment or housing based on race, religion, age, sexual orientation or gender identity.

IOWA: A proposed bill to prohibit the government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion similar to legislation being considered in many other states was introduced in the Iowa House of Representatives in January. The proposal has been referred to the judiciary committee.

KANSAS: A new law prevents colleges and universities from denying religious student associations the same funding or benefits available to other groups because of requirements that its members follow the association’s religious beliefs, standards or conduct. The law will take effect in July. Bills were also introduced to order public schools and colleges to designate restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities for use by males or females according to students’ gender at birth.

KENTUCKY: The Republican-led Senate passed a measure that would have expanded the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act by barring penalties against those who decline to provide “customized, artistic, expressive, creative, ministerial or spiritual goods or services” to people that would infringe on their “right of conscience” or religious freedoms. The bill was never brought up in the Democratic-led House.

LOUISIANA: Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an executive order providing state employees and contractors with protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and more, with exemptions for churches and religious organizations. Edwards also rescinded an order former Gov. Bobby Jindal signed that prohibited state agencies from denying licenses and contracts to businesses that take actions because of religious beliefs against same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, the Louisiana House voted to allow clergy and churches to refuse to perform or host same-sex marriage ceremonies, a proposal that awaits debate in the state Senate. Edwards doesn’t oppose the bill, but says it’s unnecessary because the First Amendment provides those protections.

MASSACHUSETTS: The Legislature is weighing a bill to expand a 2011 state law banning discrimination against transgender people in the workplace and in housing by also banning discrimination in restaurants, malls and other public accommodations, including restrooms.

MICHIGAN: Michigan Sen. Tom Casperson says he’s firmly committed to introducing legislation to prohibit transgender students from using a bathroom other than the one matching the sex listed on their birth certificate. Casperson said his proposed bill, which has not yet been introduced, would allow transgender students to use staff restrooms in the school, or single occupancy unisex bathrooms, but only with the consent of the student’s parent. Michigan Board of Education president has told policy makers and educators that LGBT students should be acknowledged and embraced.

MINNESOTA: A bill was introduced in late March to require employers and public facilities to designate separate restrooms and changing rooms for men and women. A portion of the bill reads, “No claim of nontraditional identity or ‘sexual orientation’ may override another person’s right of privacy based on biological sex.” Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system communications director Doug Anderson said no teams will participate in tournaments in North Carolina this spring. The NCAA Division II national baseball tournament and National Junior College Athletic Association Division III World Series are set to take place in North Carolina.

MISSISSIPPI: A new law prohibits the government from taking “any discriminatory action” against religious organizations that decline to host marriages, employ people or facilitate adoption or foster care based on a religious belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman, sex outside marriage is wrong or that sexual identity is determined by a person’s anatomy at birth. Several states and cities have banned travel to Mississippi and rock singer Bryan Adams canceled a concert in the state to protest.

MISSOURI: A Missouri religious objections proposal has failed to get the approval of a key legislative committee in a setback for conservatives who hoped to add protections for those who cite their faith in denying services such as flowers or cakes for same-sex weddings. Members of a House committee voted 6-6, with a tie vote not enough to advance the measure.

NEBRASKA: A bill to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was defeated in the Nebraska Legislature this year. Lawmakers have shelved the bill for the rest of the year.

NEW MEXICO: Three New Mexico lawmakers in December 2015 introduced a measure “to prevent discriminatory action by a person or a government agency in response to a person’s free exercise of religion.” The proposal died during the 2016 regular session.

NORTH CAROLINA: A new law prevents local and state government from mandating protections for LGBT people in the private sector or at stores and restaurants. The law was enacted in late March partly to overturn a Charlotte ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity. The law suffered a blow Tuesday when a federal appeals court that oversees North Carolina issued an opinion that threatens part of the law requiring students to use bathrooms in line with their gender at birth in public schools and universities.

NORTH DAKOTA: North Dakota lawmakers have defeated measures in each of the past three sessions to prohibit discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation.

OHIO: A bill pending in the Ohio House would let churches and pastors refuse to perform same-sex marriages. Under the so-called Pastor Protection Act, no clergy could be required to solemnize a marriage or have their church property be used to host a ceremony that’s against their religious beliefs. The proposal has had several hearings.

OKLAHOMA: A new law states clergy and other religious officials cannot be required to perform marriages or provide marriage counseling, courses or workshops that violate their conscience or religious beliefs. On March 14, gay rights advocates in the state celebrated the failure of 27 bills in the Legislature that they said unfairly discriminated against LGBT people.

PENNSYLVANIA: Gov. Tom Wolf in early April signed an executive order barring state contractors and grant recipients from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Legislation that would ban such bias in employment, housing and public services has stalled; a committee chairman says he wants to make sure it wouldn’t violate anybody’s religious liberties or freedom of conscience.

SOUTH CAROLINA: A bill to require transgender people to use public bathrooms corresponding to their biological sex has died. A Senate panel took testimony, mostly from opponents, over two days last month but took no vote and the bill has not been heard in a committee. An attempt to add a proposal to the state budget this week to withhold money for local governments that allow LGBT people to use the bathrooms of their choosing was ruled out of order. Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and state business leaders opposed the ideas as unnecessary.

SOUTH DAKOTA: The South Dakota lawmaker who sponsored a bill that would have required transgender students to use bathrooms matching with their birth gender is no longer running for re-election. Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch said Monday his decision to exit the state House campaign is for personal and business reasons. The chiropractor from Florence says his choice had nothing to do with widespread attention the bathroom bill drew. GOP Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed the bill. The House also passed legislation barring government from taking “discriminatory action” against people, organizations or businesses based on religious beliefs that marriage should be between one man and one woman, sex outside marriage is wrong or that sexual identity is determined by a person’s biological sex at birth. The bill did not pass before the legislative session ended.

TENNESSEE: Tennessee lawmakers passed legislation exempting mental health counselors from providing services to clients based on the therapists’ religious beliefs and personal principles, as long as they refer the clients to someone else. The American Counseling Association has said Tennessee is the only state to allow counselors to refuse to treat patients for those reasons. The sponsor of a bill to require students at public grade schools and universities to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender at birth pulled the legislation to see how legal challenges play out in other states that passed similar legislation.

TEXAS: The Texas Supreme Court has dismissed the state’s effort to overturn an Austin lesbian couple’s marriage that came months before same-sex weddings were legalized nationwide. Three justices objected Friday. Nonetheless, the Republican-controlled court has upheld a lower court’s order allowing Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend to marry last February, about four months prior to the U.S. Supreme Court sanctioning gay marriage in all 50 states. Before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states must allow gay marriage, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law last June stating that clergy and religious organizations cannot be required to marry people or allow their facilities to be used for wedding celebrations that violate a “sincerely held religious belief.” Texas did not hold a legislative session in 2016, but the previous year, a Republican-backed bill repealing local ordinances banning discrimination against gay and transgender people failed without reaching a floor vote in either chamber. The proposal attempted to roll back such ordinances that already existed in all the state’s largest cities. Instead, the all-Republican state Supreme Court heard a legal challenge to an anti-discrimination ordinance approved by Houston’s City Council, and ruled that it had to be put to a referendum. Houston voters soundly defeated the ordinance in a November 2015 election featuring very low turnout.

UTAH: Utah in 2015 passed an anti-discrimination law that makes it illegal to base employment and housing decisions on sexual orientation or gender identity. Gay-rights advocates had tried for years to pass similar legislation but only succeeded last year when the measure won support of the Utah-based Mormon church and included religions protections.

VIRGINIA: Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a Republican-backed bill stating that clergy and religious organizations cannot be penalized for declining to participate in same-sex marriages.

WASHINGTON: Legislation concerning sex-specific restrooms was introduced by Republicans in both chambers of Washington’s Legislature but never gained any traction. A bill that would have repealed a recent Washington Human Rights Commission rule allowing transgender people to use locker rooms and bathrooms consistent with their gender identity was voted down by the Republican-led Senate. Another bill on the issue died in committee in the House.

WISCONSIN: The only bill introduced in the Republican-led Legislature dealing with gays, lesbians and transgender people was a measure to force transgender students in public schools to use bathrooms and locker rooms assigned to their gender at birth. GOP leaders never brought the bill up for a vote before the two-year session ended.

WEST VIRGINIA: The Republican-led House passed a bill modeled after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, stating that government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless by the least restrictive means for a compelling government interest. The bill was amended and then defeated in the Senate.

Alabama city criminalizes use of bathrooms in anti-transgender ordinance

The city council in Oxford, Alabama, has unanimously approved an ordinance preventing transgender people from using public bathrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.

The ordinance goes beyond other regulations and imposes a $500 fine or six months in jail on violators.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, says the ordinance is unprecedented in its establishment of criminal penalties for violations and raises a myriad of privacy and legal concerns, including questions about how the law will be enforced.

The ordinance lacks clarity on whether all people in Oxford will be expected to produce birth certificates when using public facilities or, if not, how law enforcement officials will obtain evidence.

“This ordinance is a shameful and vile attack on the rights and privacy of transgender people,” said HRC Alabama state manager Eva Walton Kendrick. “Transgender people are our neighbors, our coworkers and our fellow churchgoers, and every Alabamian has the right to live their lives without fear of discrimination and prejudice. Throughout the country elected officials from both sides of the aisle, along with hundreds of business leaders and advocates throughout the country have resoundingly rejected these kinds of proposals, which only seek to demean and marginalize the transgender community.”

Anti-LGBT activists who back such measures say they are needed as a safeguard. These advocates for the policies most often offer up arguments about adult men posing as transgender women to prey upon girls in women’s restrooms.

However, states with laws protecting transgender people’s access to the appropriate bathroom have seen no increase in public safety incidents.

Additionally, a coalition of more than 250 sexual assault prevention organizations released a statement last week decrying policies like the one adopted in Oxford this week.

Oxford is now the first city in the nation to enact such a law.

With the passage of HB2 earlier this spring, North Carolina became the first state to enact an anti-transgender bathroom bill.

Oxford’s ordinance, however, is unprecedented in that it enumerates criminal penalties, including the potential for jail time, for violations. It also applies to bathrooms and locker rooms citywide, including in private businesses, which goes further than the provision in North Carolina’s law, which applies to government buildings, according to HRC.

Anti-transgender bill vetoed in South Dakota

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard on March 1 vetoed HB 1008, legislation to force transgender children to use restrooms and other facilities inconsistent with their gender identity.

“Gov. Daugaard chose to do the right thing and veto this outrageous legislation attacking transgender kids,” Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said in a statement. Today, the voices of fairness and equality prevailed and these students’ rights and dignity prevailed against overwhelming odds and vicious opponents in the state legislature.”

He continued, “Unfortunately, another anti-LGBT bill is still pending in the South Dakota Legislature and we must keep up the fight to ensure today’s veto holds and this other odious bill never makes it to Governor Daugaard’s desk.”

LGBT civil rights advocates organized across South Dakota to challenge HB 1008, similar to legislation pushed by Republicans in Wisconsin.

HRC, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, worked with state and local organizations, including the ACLU of South Dakota and the National Center for Transgender Equality, to try to stop the bill. Other national groups, including Lambda Legal, GLSEN and the National Center for Lesbian Rights also got involved.

In late February, petitions signed by more than 80,000 people were delivered to the governor to encourage his veto.

Meanwhile, national child welfare, medical, and education groups — including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American School Counselor Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association — sent an open letter to all the nation’s governors expressing grave concerns and objections to this type of legislation.

The governor’s meeting

Before making his decision, Daugaard said meeting with transgender South Dakotans “put a human face” on the impact the legislation would have had and helped him to see things “through their eyes.”

Reactions to the veto

Equality California executive director Rick Zbur: “Fortunately, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard today took the appropriate step of vetoing legislation that would have only invited lawsuits, discrimination and violations of privacy for all students. With a Republican governor in the Midwest and the California Democratic Party both acting to protect the rights of transgender people, a very strong message has been sent that this is not a partisan or regional issue. No state has and no state should take any action that prohibits a student from simply using the bathroom. Transgender students, like all our kids, deserve to be treated with respect and should be able to feel safe, especially in their school.”

GLSEN: “We hope this sends a message and serves as an example to other state and local policymakers that all students, including transgender and gender nonconforming students, should have access to safe and affirming schools. GLSEN calls on all policymakers to best serve their students and educators by supporting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination and anti-bullying and harassment laws. GLSEN is ready to work with policymakers, school administrators, educators and students to help create school climates where all students can thrive.”

Rebecca Isaacs, executive director, Equality Federation: “We especially applaud the brave, young transgender people who courageously met with the governor and shared their stories in the media. The more people get to know transgender people and their families, the more empathy prevails.”

National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling: “Gov. Daugaard has demonstrated true leadership in listening to the hundreds of transgender South Dakotans and their families who would have been directly impacted by this bill. He has made a carefully informed decision that protects all students in South Dakota. His example shows that scare tactics can be overcome by understanding who trans people really are.”

NCLR Transgender Youth Project attorney Asaf Orr: “We salute Gov. Daugaard for meeting with students and listening to the concerns of legal experts and medical professionals about the serious harms caused by denying students equal access to all school programs and activities. School policies should be based on evidence, not irrational stereotypes and fears, and should support the health and well-being of all students.”

Heather Smith, executive director of the ACLU of South Dakota: “Today Gov. Daugaard made a symbolic statement that South Dakota’s transgender students are a valued part of the community and that our state leaders won’t be swayed by out-of-state groups that don’t have the interests of South Dakotans at heart. People from across the state and country took time to reach out to the governor to urge this veto — that’s the true testament of democracy.  There was no place for discrimination in South Dakota when this bill was initially proposed by a handful of legislators, and today the governor confirmed unequivocally that discrimination has no place in our future. Thank you governor, for listening to the collective voices of South Dakotans and voting your values.”

 

South Dakota lawmakers send anti-transgender bill to governor

The South Dakota Senate on Feb. 16 passed legislation that attacks the rights of transgender children in public schools and prevents them from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.

Civil rights and education groups at the state and national level condemned the vote and called on Gov. Dennis Daugaard to veto the measure. If signed, the law would put the state in conflict with the U.S. Department of Education and non-discrimination protections under Title IX of the United States Education Amendments of 1972.

“The Republican leadership of South Dakota’s legislature has disgracefully failed to fulfill its most fundamental obligation – to protect the state’s young people from harm,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “It is inconceivable that Gov. Daugaard would decide the fate of this bill while saying he’s never met a transgender person in his life. We urge him in the strongest possible terms to veto this legislation, and to engage in thoughtful dialogue with his transgender constituents, especially South Dakota’s transgender children. Knowledge is power, and we hope that by learning about their experiences, the daily challenges they face, and the damage this bill will inflict on their lives, that he will show true leadership and reject this measure. History has never looked kindly upon those who attack the basic civil rights of their fellow Americans, and history will not treat kindly those who support this discriminatory measure.”

At the ACLU of South Dakota, executive director Heather Smith said, “Today South Dakota Senators voted to pass a bill that targets vulnerable transgender students for discrimination. Lawmakers heard from South Dakota parents, teachers, students, school counselors, clergy and mental health professionals who wrote emails and traveled to Pierre from all corners of the state to testify and demonstrate the ways in which this bill does real harm to transgender students. The only people to testify in support of this harmful, discriminatory bill were lobbyists — not one South Dakota citizen testified to the necessity of this bill. And that’s because it’s not necessary and we don’t need discrimination codified. It begs the question; do our state politicians truly represent the people of South Dakota, or do they represent outsider lobbyists and interest groups? Gov. Daugaard should listen to his actual constituents and veto this bill and send a strong message that discrimination isn’t a South Dakota value and there’s simply no place for it in our schools, community, and state.”

H.B. 1008 would put South Dakota school districts at risk of losing federal funds under Title IX, forcing them to choose between state and federal law.

The measure goes against the policies and findings of the U.S. Education and Justice departments. Justice has said, “Discrimination based on a person’s gender identity, a person’s transgender status, or a person’s nonconformity to sex stereotypes constitutes discrimination based on sex. As such, prohibiting a student from accessing the restrooms that match his (or her) gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination under Title IX.”

Based on findings from HRC’s survey of more than 10,000 LGBT-identified youth, a report in 2014 revealed that gender-expansive youth take the brunt of exclusion and verbal harassment both inside and outside of school compared to their peers. About 40 percent of gender-expansive youth reported being excluded “frequently or often” by their peers. Nearly the same number of these youth reported “frequently or often” being verbally harassed and called names at school, and 42 percent reported being called anti-gay slurs.

A measure in Wisconsin that would roll back school district policies intended to protect transgender students is still pending. The bill, like South Dakota’s, would interfere with students’ right to use the facilities that correspond with their gender identity.

Wisconsin GOP plays potty politics

Two Republican lawmakers, seeking to rollback reforms in 60 Wisconsin school districts, are pushing a bill to ban transgender students from using restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

The measure — a proposed mandate that school districts designate facilities exclusively for one biological sex or the other — is being circulated for co-sponsors by state Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, and state Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater.

“This bill reinforces the societal norm in our schools that students born biologically male must not be allowed to enter facilities designated for biological females and vice versa,” Kremer wrote in a memo.

Meanwhile, Democrats Sondy Pope, a representative from Cross Plains, and Nikiya Harris Dodd, a senator from Milwaukee, are seeking co-sponsors for a measure that would require the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to develop a model policy protecting the rights of transgender students. The measure also would require school districts to adopt a policy.

The Democratic lawmakers wrote in a memo, “Recent actions in our state and nationwide indicate that many individuals do not have a clear understanding of the unique issues faced by transgender youth. Adopting a school board-wide policy is necessary to ensure a safe, equal learning environment for transgender students.”

Civil rights groups, education organizations and Democratic lawmakers denounced the bill by Kremer and Nass as mean-spirited, reckless and discriminatory.

“This bill is an unnecessary solution in search of a problem,” said Megin McDonell, the interim executive director of Fair Wisconsin, the state’s largest LGBT civil rights group. “It singles out, isolates and stigmatizes transgender students, who often already face harassment and exclusion at school.”

McDonell said the bill would undermine the advances in many school districts, which “have made allowing students to use facilities and participate in sports and activities consistent with their gender identity.”

State Reps. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, and Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, two of three openly LGBT members of the Assembly, responded in a joint statement. They said the measure proposed by Kremer and Nass reveals a “gross misunderstanding of both biology and gender identity.”

The Democrats also said the measure constituted “the ultimate invasion of privacy. We don’t need big government to check kids’ anatomy before they’re allowed to use the bathroom.”

Dozens of school districts in the state have adopted best practices and modernized nondiscrimination policies, protecting all students.

The Janesville School District, for example, has a policy allowing transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms assigned to the gender with which they identify, if parents and principals give the OK. Meanwhile, in the Madison School District and at Shorewood High School, policies provide for transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.

None of these districts have reported an incident of a non-transgender student being harassed by the presence of a transgender student, according to GSAFE, a Wisconsin organization that advocates for LGBT students.

“All this bill does is single out transgender and intersex students for increased scrutiny and harassment, directly jeopardizing their safety,” said GSAFE education and policy director Brian Juchems.

Juchems noted that the language in the “bathroom bill” is the same as the language in a draft policy circulated by the right-wing Alliance Defending Freedom. 

“Instead of looking outside our state, our Legislature should look at the sample policy drafted by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards,” suggested Juchems. 

In 1982, Wisconsin became the first state to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. But the state does not ban discrimination based on gender identity.

Wis. Republicans want law barring transgender students from restrooms

Two Republican lawmakers, seeking to rollback reforms in 60 Wisconsin school districts, are pushing a bill to ban transgender students from using restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

The measure — a proposed mandate that school districts designate facilities exclusively for one biological sex or the other — is being circulated for co-sponsors by state Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, and state Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater.

“This bill reinforces the societal norm in our schools that students born biologically male must not be allowed to enter facilities designated for biological females and vice versa,” Kremer wrote in a memo.

Meanwhile, Democrats Sondy Pope, a representative from Cross Plains, and Nikiya Harris Dodd, a senator from Milwaukee, are seeking co-sponsors for a measure that would require the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to develop a model policy protecting the rights of transgender students. The measure also would require school districts to adopt a policy.

The Democratic lawmakers wrote in a memo, “Recent actions in our state and nationwide indicate that many individuals do not have a clear understanding of the unique issues faced by transgender youth. Adopting a school board-wide policy is necessary to ensure a safe, equal learning environment for transgender students.”

Civil rights groups, education organizations and Democratic lawmakers denounced the bill by Kremer and Nass as mean-spirited, reckless and discriminatory.

“This bill is an unnecessary solution in search of a problem,” said Megin McDonell, the interim executive director of Fair Wisconsin, the state’s largest LGBT civil rights group. “It singles out, isolates and stigmatizes transgender students, who often already face harassment and exclusion at school.”

McDonell said the bill would undermine the advances in many school districts, which “have made allowing students to use facilities and participate in sports and activities consistent with their gender identity.”

State Reps. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, and Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, two of three openly LGBT members of the Assembly, responded in a joint statement. They said the measure proposed by Kremer and Nass reveals a “gross misunderstanding of both biology and gender identity.”

The Democrats also said the measure constituted “the ultimate invasion of privacy. We don’t need big government to check kids’ anatomy before they’re allowed to use the bathroom.”

Dozens of school districts in the state have adopted best practices and modernized nondiscrimination policies, protecting all students.

The Janesville School District, for example, has a policy allowing transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms assigned to the gender with which they identify, if parents and principals give the OK. Meanwhile, in the Madison School District and at Shorewood High School, policies provide for transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.

None of these districts have reported an incident of a non-transgender student being harassed by the presence of a transgender student, according to GSAFE, a Wisconsin organization that advocates for LGBT students.

“All this bill does is single out transgender and intersex students for increased scrutiny and harassment, directly jeopardizing their safety,” said GSAFE education and policy director Brian Juchems.

Juchems noted that the language in the “bathroom bill” is the same as the language in a draft policy circulated by the right-wing Alliance Defending Freedom. 

“Instead of looking outside our state, our Legislature should look at the sample policy drafted by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards,” suggested Juchems. 

In 1982, Wisconsin became the first state to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. But the state does not ban discrimination based on gender identity.