In recent years, there has been a growing controversy over transgender people using public bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. While some states and cities have enacted laws protecting the rights of transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice, others have moved in the opposite direction, seeking to restrict their access.
The latest state to join the latter group is Arkansas, where the legislature has passed a bill that bans transgender people from using the school bathroom or locker room that corresponds with their gender identity. The bill, known as the “Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act,” was signed into law by Governor Asa Hutchinson in late March 2021.
The SAFE Act requires schools to provide separate facilities for transgender students, which are designated for use only by students of the same biological sex. The law applies to all public schools in the state, from kindergarten through twelfth grade. The only exception is for transgender students who have obtained a medical certificate stating that they have undergone a sex change operation or that they have a genetic condition that makes them unable to conform to the gender assigned to them at birth.
However, the new governor went one step further Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed legislation Tuesday that bans transgender individuals from using the public school bathroom of their choice.
Arkansas is the first of several states expected this year to pass such measures.
The bill signed by the Republican governor makes Arkansas the fourth state to place such restrictions at public schools, and it comes as bills in Idaho and Iowa also await their governor’s signature. And it might be followed by an even stricter Arkansas bill criminalizing transgender adults using public restrooms that match their gender identity.
Arkansas’ law, which won’t take effect until later this summer, applies to multi-person restrooms and locker rooms at public schools and charter schools serving prekindergarten through 12th grade. The majority-Republican Legislature gave final approval to the bill last week.
“The Governor has said she will sign laws that focus on protecting and educating our kids, not indoctrinating them and believes our schools are no place for the radical left’s woke agenda,” Alexa Henning, Sanders’ spokesperson, said in a statement. “Arkansas isn’t going to rewrite the rules of biology just to please a handful of far-left advocates.”
Similar laws have been enacted in Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee, although lawsuits have been filed challenging the Oklahoma and Tennessee restrictions.
ABC News added:
The proposals are among a record number of bills filed to restrict the rights of transgender people by limiting or banning gender-affirming care for minors, banning transgender girls from school sports and restricting drag shows. Transgender people have also faced increasingly hostile rhetoric at statehouses.
Another bill pending in Arkansas goes even further than the North Carolina law by imposing criminal penalties. That proposal would allow someone to be charged with misdemeanor sexual indecency with a child if they use a public restroom or changing room of the opposite sex when a minor is present.
The new Arkansas law requires schools to provide reasonable accommodations, including single-person restrooms. Superintendents, principals and teachers who violate the prohibition could face fines of at least $1,000 from a state panel, and parents could also file private lawsuits to enforce the measure.
The bill’s supporters argue that it is necessary to protect the privacy and safety of students, particularly girls who might be uncomfortable sharing a bathroom or locker room with a transgender girl who was born male. They also claim that allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice is an example of government overreach and social engineering.
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Author: Kellyanne Richardson
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