MONTGOMERY (Ala.) - Tuesday night, Alabama legislators approved legislation to prohibit transgender students using locker rooms and school bathrooms that are compatible with their gender identity.
K-12 schools must require that students use multi-person toilets and locker rooms that correspond to their birth certificates. After two hours of heated debate, the Alabama House of Representatives voted for the bill 74-24. Republicans claimed it would solve a problem in public schools, while opponents claimed it will target trans youth to gain political points. Now, the bill moves to Alabama's Senate.
Scott Stadthagen, a Republican Representative from Hartselle, stated that "Right now you have males who are dressing as females and identifying themselves as women and wanting to use female bathrooms."
Stadthagen stated that schools have been asked to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that are compatible with their gender identity. The bill also protects girls' safety and privacy, he said.
"All you do is demonize an already vulnerable population. All this is done under the pretense of protecting children to gain political points. During debate on the bill, Rep. Neil Rafferty from Birmingham stated that this is all it was.
Rafferty stated that schools in the Birmingham district have provided accommodations for transgender students, "without targeting vulnerable young people who are already struggling with suicide, mental illness and bullying."
Stadthagen, when he urged support for the bill. He cited sexual assaults that had occurred in school bathrooms. Opposition lawmakers challenged him to name any bathroom attack in which a transgender person was the victim.
Rep. Merika Coleman (a Pleasant Grove Democrat) asked, "How many of those cases involved a Transgender woman?" Stadthagen said he didn’t know.
Similar policies have been challenged in court in other states. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by a Virginia school board to reinstate its transgender ban. This was a victory for transgender rights groups as well as a former high school student who had fought six years in court to overturn this ban.
The entire 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was to hear oral arguments Tuesday in the case of a Florida transgender student who was prevented from using the boy’s bathroom.
Republicans who voted in favor of the bill stated that parents and teachers in their districts were uncomfortable with transgender students using bathrooms that are compatible with their gender identity.
Rep. Andrew Sorrell from Muscle Shoals said that there was a transgender student in the girls' bathroom at his high school. Sorrell stated that he wouldn't allow his infant daughter to attend the school without this bill.
"I believe this bill is a good idea. Sorrell said that he understood and appreciated the effort to protect our daughters.
The bill was opposed by the Human Rights Campaign, which is the largest LGBTQ civil rights organization in the country.
"Today, Alabama State House of Representatives took steps against transgender students who merit the fundamental human dignity of being allowed to use the toilet without being discriminated against and humiliated," Carmarion D. Anderson -Harvey, Human Rights Campaign Alabama State Director, stated in a statement.
Alabama's bill, which targets LGBTQ youths, is the second to be advanced in legislative committee this fiscal year. Last week, a Senate committee approved a bill to ban the use of hormone treatments and hormonal treatment for transgender youths 18 and under in their gender transition.
Alabama Governor. Kay Ivey passed a bill that would prohibit transgender girls from participating in public school sports teams.