Arkansas bans trans students from using bathroom that matches gender
Arkansas has become the latest Republican-run US state to ban transgender people in schools using the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
The Arkansas governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, signed the bill on Tuesday. It applies to multi-person restrooms and locker rooms in public and charter schools for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, ABC reported.
Officials at schools which violate the ban could face fines up to $1,000, with parents able to file lawsuits to help enforce the law.
Arkansas could also pass a similar but harsher bill which would criminalize transgender people using public bathrooms based on their gender identity.
The schools bill, which gained final approval last week, will go into effect this summer.
Huckabee Sanders, the daughter of the former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, was Donald Trump’s second White House press secretary. As Arkansas governor, she has largely pursued a Trumpist agenda, targeting transgender rights, racial justice in education and other progressive values.
Republicans across the US have increasingly embraced transphobic rhetoric and policies. Earlier this month, for example, several speakers at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland called for a ban on gender-affirming care for young people.
Arkansas is the fourth state to pass legislation stopping transgender people using the bathroom of their choice in public schools. The others are Oklahoma, Alabama and Tennessee. The Tennessee and Oklahoma laws have faced challenges.
North Carolina rolled back its own “bathroom bill” in 2017, following protests and business boycotts. But more than two dozen laws restricting bathroom use in some form have been introduced in 17 states, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Advocates for trans rights decry such legislation as targeted and transphobic.
“They’re singling out transgender people for no other reason than dislike, disapproval and misunderstanding of who transgender youth are,” Paul Castillo, senior counsel and students’ rights strategist for Lambda Legal, told the Associated Press.
“And the entire school population suffers as a result of these types of bills, particularly schools and teachers and administrators who are dealing with real problems and need to focus on creating a welcome environment for every student.”
Conservative states have filed more than 100 laws targeting LGBTQ+ rights so far this year, NBC News reported. Targets of anti-trans rights bills include participation in sports, access to gender-affirming healthcare and education.