‘Unconstitutional’: Oklahoma Gov. Signs New Transgender ‘Bathroom Bill’, Stirs Controversy

© AP Photo / Gerry Broome, FileThis Thursday, May 12, 2016, file photo, shows signage outside a restroom at 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, N.C. North Carolina is in a legal battle over a state law that requires transgender people to use the public restroom matching the sex on their birth certificate.
This Thursday, May 12, 2016, file photo, shows signage outside a restroom at 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, N.C. North Carolina is in a legal battle over a state law that requires transgender people to use the public restroom matching the sex on their birth certificate. - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.05.2022
Oklahoma has passed three bills targeting transgender people so far this year, following several similar moves made a year prior. It is part of a nationwide rollback of LGBTQ rights that centers upon characterizing transgender women as a threat to cisgender women.
On Thursday, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law the third “bathroom bill” to be passed in the US, although similar bills have been proposed in more than a dozen states.
Senate Bill 615 requires people using a "Multiple occupancy restroom or changing area" in Oklahoma to use the one that corresponds to the sex that appears on their birth certificate. Public schools that refuse to comply with this policy could lose 5% of state funding for their budget.
Further, enforcement of the bill is done by parent complaint - a third-party enforcement method adopted by several states in the wake of the passage of Texas’ SB8 abortion restriction law last year, which has so far dodged being swatted down by the US Supreme Court.
Demonstrators protest outside of the U.S. Supreme Court, Thursday, May 5, 2022, in Washington. - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.05.2022
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Because the bill is declared an “emergency,” it is not required to give a grace period between passage and activation and became immediately enforceable on Thursday.
“It’s about safety, it’s about protection, it’s about common sense,” said Republican Rep. Danny Williams, the author of the bill, according to the Associated Press. “The goal of this bill is to protect our children.”
The bill’s effect will be to ban transgender people from using bathrooms and changing facilities associated with their gender, forcing them to use those facilities for the sex they were assigned at birth. Last year, Stitt banned trans people from changing the sex on their birth certificates.
There is no evidence to support claims that trans girls or women pose a threat to cisgender girls or women, or that cisgender men are pretending to be trans women in order to sneak into women’s-only spaces.
Only two other states have passed such bills into law: North Carolina did so in 2016, causing a nationwide political firestorm that backfired economically as people boycotted doing business in the state; and Tennessee, which passed a bill into law last year that was blocked from implementation by a judge before being struck down last week by a federal judge.
Demonstrators gather on the steps to the State Capitol to speak against transgender related legislation bills being considered in the Texas Senate and Texas House, Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Austin, Texas. - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.05.2022
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Freedom Oklahoma, a statewide LGBTQ rights advocacy group, said in a statement following the bill’s passage that rather than protect children, it would expose trans children to increased danger.
“If this bill becomes law, there will be consequences measured in very real harm to the students whose safety this bill puts at risk,” the group said. “Let us be clear, not only does this policy make trans students unsafe, it creates a hostile, unsafe environment for all students.”
“This policy requires trans students to be regularly outed at school, to possibly unsafe contacts, targeting their ability to continue using the bathroom as needed, relegating them to either separate facilities or creating scenarios where trans girls may be forced to use a bathroom with boys and trans boys forced to use a bathroom with girls,” Freedom Oklahoma said.
The group noted that the law violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or educational program that receives federal funding. In recent years, the US Department of Education has read this policy as including LGBTQ people in its protections, and earlier this month, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona unveiled a plan to codify LGBTQ-inclusive language into Title IX explicitly.
Earlier this year, Stitt also signed into law a bill that prevents trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams in public schools or colleges, and a bill banning the state from implementing any kind of nonbinary gender recognition on birth certificates.
Hundreds of such bills have been introduced across the US in 2022, far more than in any previous year - part of a steady increase in the number of anti-LGBTQ bills in recent years. The majority of the bills target trans rights and the majority of those bills target transgender youth. The hatred and fear of trans people has reached new heights in the US, with conservatives spreading rumors in the wake of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, earlier this week, claiming the shooter was trans or that the existence of trans people is proof of the social malaise in US society responsible for producing people like the gunman.
To the south in Texas, the state’s Supreme Court earlier this month restored a Child Protective Services program that investigates parents of transgender youth who give their children gender-affirming treatment, including puberty blockers or hormone therapy. The program is based on a directive earlier this year by State Attorney General Ken Paxton which reinterpreted that behavior as a type of child abuse. Critics have noted that seizing trans children and placing them with families who would force them to detransition meets United Nations definitions of genocide.
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