Arkansas Senate passes "bathroom bill"
The Senate passed SB270, the so-called bathroom bill, on Tuesday.
The big picture: While the measure applies to all gender identities, it's part of a nationwide trend that disproportionately impacts transgender people.
- Arkansas has banned transgender girls from joining female sports teams and was the first state to ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors.
- Individual states have started enacting bans on gender-affirming care for trans youth in 2023, and more than 100 anti-trans health care bills have been introduced in state legislatures so far, according to data from the American Civil Liberties Union.
Details: SB270 criminalizes transgender people using public restrooms in some cases by defining "sex" as a person's biological sex determined by anatomy and genetics at birth. Sponsored by Sen. John Payton (R-Wilburn), it would:
- Make it a crime for a man or transgender woman to enter and remain in a women's restroom when they knew a female child was present. The same applies for a woman or transgender man in a men's room with a male child present.
- Public changing facilities are defined as restrooms, locker or shower rooms but do not include a designated dressing area at a store where clothing is sold.
- A person violating the law could be charged with a misdemeanor.
The bill allows exceptions for a parent or caretaker with a child of the opposite sex and under age 7; for janitorial services of the room; and for medical assistance or law enforcement escorting a person in custody.
State of play: The bill passed by a vote of 19 for, 7 against, 6 abstaining, 1 voting present and 2 absent.
- Supporters proclaim the measure protects children from indecency in public rooms where people may be in various stages of undress.
- Critics say it prevents transgender people from simply using the bathroom. As for protecting children, critics note indecent exposure and voyeurism are already addressed by state law.
What they're saying: "It's not going to stop transgender people from going to the bathroom," Payton said.
- I'm "just asking that they don't expose my kids and grandkids and your kids and grandkids to it because we're trying to teach them a different standard."
- Payton noted prosecuting anyone under the law would be a "very high bar" and "under the most grievous circumstances where somebody refused common courtesy."
The other side: "You simply have to occupy [the room] — no activity of sexual nature is required," Sen. Joshua Bryant (R-Rogers) said on the Senate floor. He was the only Republican to vote against the bill.
- "Why should that therefore be considered sexually indecent? If it were actually sexually indecent, the law already covers that."
What we're watching: SB270 heads to the House Judiciary Committee.
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