A proposed transgender bathroom law was approved by the Senate in South Dakota on Tuesday. The bill compels transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their sex at birth.
While critics say the proposed bathroom law explicitly targets certain teenagers, lawmakers contend the legislation protects privacy. According to the bill’s author, State Representative Fred Deutsch, the bill protects the “bodily privacy rights” of all students, and transgender students would be given the option to choose alternate facilities if they wish.
Should the South Dakota bill go into effect, schools would be required to reasonably accommodate transgender students through either a single-occupancy bathroom or the “controlled use” of a specifically assigned restroom, locker room, or shower room. According to the initiative, a student must claim to be a transgender person, and a parent must agree with the student’s declaration in writing.
When asked about the bill at a recent event, Senator David Omdahl, who voted for the law, made it clear how he feels about transgender people.
“I’m sorry if you’re so twisted you don’t know who you are. I’m telling you right now, it’s about protecting the kids, and I don’t even understand where our society is these days.”
Senator Brock Greenfield urged lawmakers to set aside emotions and look to create standard policy for all school districts to follow. While on the Senate floor, he stressed that the bill isn’t about contempt or hate, but reminded his colleagues that without a rule in place, biological males and biological females will be mixing in private areas during various stages of undress.
“Do you feel it appropriate for a 13-year-old girl to be exposed to the anatomy of a boy? Or for a boy to be exposed to the anatomy of a girl because of the decisions we make out here?”
As reported by Fox News, Governor Dennis Daugaard says he will study the proposed transgender bathroom law before deciding to sign it. While the governor asserts he has never met a transgender person, he has no intention of meeting one before making a decision.
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota and Human Rights Campaign are adamantly opposed to the legislation, and demand the governor veto the proposed bathroom law.
“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,” said Chad Griffin of the LGBT-rights organization Human Rights Campaign.
Thomas Lewis, a transgender student at Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls, is stunned by the planned bathroom law and doesn’t think it is needed.
“At this point, I’m hoping that the governor has a sense of humanity and the common sense not to write this bill into law. I am so glad to be leaving soon. I can escape the oppression that my home state wants to put on me.”
Lewis will be moving to Minnesota to attend college after graduation.
Family Heritage Alliance Action, a conservative Christian group, supports the new transgender bathroom law. The group sees the “modesty bill” approval as a step in the right direction for the protection of all students and is the right thing to do.
Many states, like Washington, have been wrestling with how to address gender and public facilities. Despite some strong opposition from women’s right groups, the Washington Human Rights Commission announced rules in December that any public building must allow transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender they identify with.
In a related Inquisitr report, Kentucky legislators recently introduced their own transgender student bill similar to the proposed South Dakota law.
Both the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice have issued rulings that school districts requiring transgender students to use a separate bathroom amounts to sex discrimination and a violation of Title IX anti-discrimination law. However, advocates of the South Dakota bathroom bill believe the legislation is actually in line with the federal government’s interpretation, which still requires separate facilities based on sex.
After a fiery debate and a 20 to 15 vote, the state Senate accepted the proposed transgender bathroom law and now the bill goes to the governor’s desk for him to sign. The state House passed the bill last month. Should it be approved, South Dakota will be the first state to pass such a law.
[Photo by AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File]