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MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Alabama lawmakers on Tuesday night approved legislation that would ban transgender students from using school restrooms and locker rooms that match their current gender identity.
The bill requires K-12 schools to require students to use washrooms and locker rooms for multiple people who match the gender listed on their original birth certificate. The Alabama House of Representatives voted 74-24 for the bill after two hours of contentious debate where Republicans said it would fix a lingering problem in public schools, but opponents said it targeted trans youth to score political points. The bill is now moving through the Alabama Senate.
“Right now you have men who dress up as women, identify as women, and want to use the women’s restroom,” Republican Rep. Scott Stadthagen of Hartselle told lawmakers.
Stadthagen said some schools are now being asked to accommodate transgender students who request to use restrooms that match their gender identity. He said the bill also aims to protect girls’ privacy and safety.
“All you’re doing is demonizing an already vulnerable population. All under the guise of protecting children just to gain cheap political points. That’s all it is,” Rep. Neil Rafferty said. , a Democrat from Birmingham, during the debate on the bill.
Rafferty said schools in his Birmingham district have run accommodation for transgender students, “without targeting vulnerable young people who already have issues with suicide, mental illness, bullying”.
Stadthagen, in urging support for the bill, cited sexual assaults that happened in school toilets. But opposing lawmakers challenged him to name any assault in the bathroom where a transgender person was the attacker.
“How many of those cases involved a transgender woman?” Rep. Merika Coleman, a Pleasant Grove Democrat, asked. Stadthagen replied that he did not know.
Similar policies in other states have resulted in litigation. Last year, the United States Supreme Court rejected a Virginia school board’s appeal to reinstate its ban on transgender restrooms, giving a victory to transgender rights groups and a former high school student who s fought in court for six years to overturn the ban.
The 11th United States Circuit Court of Appeals was scheduled to hear oral arguments on Tuesday in the case of a transgender student in Florida who was unable to use the boy’s bathroom.
Republicans who spoke in favor of the bill said teachers and parents in their districts have expressed discomfort with transgender students using bathrooms that conform to their gender identity.
Rep. Andrew Sorrell, a Muscle Shoals Republican, said a transgender student was using the girls’ restroom at a high school in his district. Sorrell said he would not let his now infant daughter attend this school in the future without this bill.
“I think it’s such a sensible bill. I understand and appreciate that you’re trying to protect our girls,” Sorrell told Stadthagen.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, condemned the bill’s passage.
“Today, the Alabama State House of Representatives took action to discriminate against transgender students who deserve the basic human dignity of being able to use the bathroom without being discriminated against or humiliated,” said Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, director of the Human Rights Campaign Alabama State Director. in a report.
The Alabama bill is the second targeting LGBTQ youth to advance to legislative committee this year. Last week, a Senate committee introduced a bill that would ban the use of puberty blockers, hormone treatments and surgery to help transgender youth 18 and under with their gender transition.
Last year, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law a bill to prevent transgender girls from playing on women’s sports teams in public schools.