By Jos Truitt
On Tuesday, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed a bill that would have amounted to legislative bullying of transgender young people. House Bill 1008, which would have prohibited transgender students from accessing bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers that match their gender, was passed by South Dakota’s legislature on February 16. This was the first bill of its kind in the United States to make it to a governor’s desk, and the veto is heartening. But this is only the tip of the iceberg of the legislative attacks on trans people.
According to a new report from Human Rights Campaign, there are 44 anti-trans bills in the works in 16 states, double the number that were filed in the previous legislative session. Seventeen of the bills—including those in Illinois, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Virginia—place trans students in their crosshairs by focusing on bathrooms, locker rooms, or sports. Texas school officials signed off on a proposal last week to use birth certificates to determine a student’s gender and thus ban trans from participating in sports. Bills in Virginia would charge trans people $50 for using the bathroom that matches their gender. Charlotte, North Carolina, actually managed to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance last week, but Governor Pat McCrory has promised retaliation in the form of state legislation that would override Charlotte’s ordinance as well as LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances that any state jurisdiction tries to pass in the future. In fact, several state legislatures are considering bills to prevent cities, counties, and school districts from extending nondiscrimination protections to LGBT people. In January, the Republican National Committee approved a resolution endorsing bathroom bills in the states and called for rolling back the interpretation of Title IX, a federal law that protects trans students. The Obama administration has quietly extended protections to trans people through interpretation of existing law and, though this particular measure failed in South Dakota, the Republicans have made taking away these protections a major priority.
Laws like House Bill 1008 seem to be in clear violation of Title IX and could lead to a loss of federal funding for and lawsuits against schools. As Governor Daugaard noted when vetoing HB 1008, “this bill would place every school district in the difficult position of following state law while knowing it openly invites federal litigation.” That makes it obvious that this push is not about sound policy, but about whipping up a bigoted conservative base in a presidential election year by targeting some of the most vulnerable.
Picture: Ted Eytan from Washington, DC, USA (2013 Rally for Transgender Equality 21175) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons