The Iowa legislature is passing a “bathroom bill” for schools targeting transgender students

DES MOINES, Iowa — Transgender students are not allowed to use restrooms or locker rooms that conform to their gender identity, according to a law passed by the Iowa state legislature Thursday, the latest in a Wave of anti-LGBTQ laws in several Republican states.

The statement prohibits people from entering a school toilet or changing room who do not match their gender as stated on their birth certificate. The bill now goes to Gov. Kim Reynolds to be signed into law.

The House voted 57-39 Thursday to pass the Bathroom Bill. Five Republicans joined 34 current Democrats in opposition.

Republican supporters of the proposal say the restrictions are necessary to protect the privacy and safety of students, who may feel uncomfortable sharing a facility with their transgender peers.

“This legislation is fair to everyone because it bases bathroom use on what it has always been based on until recently: biology,” said Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison. “That applies to everyone equally.”

Democrats argued that there have been no problems with transgender students in Iowa using gender-appropriate school bathrooms. They claim the bill could lead to additional harassment of transgender children.

“Forcing transgender students into toilets that do not conform to their gender identity puts their safety at risk,” said Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Des Moines. “They must be able to use the toilet that corresponds to the gender they live in school every day without being singled out.”

Similar proposals in recent years failed to gain support in the Iowa Capitol. But Republican lawmakers have focused intensely on LGBTQ-related issues this year, introducing bills to ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors and ban teaching about gender identity or sexual orientation in elementary schools.

Iowa’s bathroom law joins a series of LGBTQ-targeted laws introduced in largely red states. So far in 2023, more than 410 anti-LGBTQ laws have been introduced, of which about 180 specifically target transgender rights, the agency said human rights campaign.

Tennessee, Alabama And Oklahoma have enacted laws prohibiting transgender students from using school toilets. Discrimination lawsuits are pending in Tennessee and Oklahoma.

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What is Iowa’s bathroom bill doing?

Senate File 482 prohibits individuals in Iowa public and private schools from entering a bathroom or locker room that does not match their birth-assigned gender.

A transgender student, teacher, staff member, or visitor to the school would be excluded from the restroom or locker room that matches their gender identity. A transgender girl would not be allowed in the girls’ bathroom, and a transgender boy would be barred from the boys’ locker room.

The ban would also apply to single-sex, single-occupancy facilities and any overnight or after-school activities where students could change clothes.

The bill will come into effect immediately when it comes into force.

How can schools accept transgender students?

The law allows a student who “desires greater privacy” to request special housing from their school with written parental consent.

Schools could offer these students access to an individual toilet or “controlled use” of a faculty toilet.

However, schools would not be allowed to allow transgender students access to a shared toilet that does not match their birth-assigned gender.

Why is Iowa tracking a bathroom bill?

Iowa Safe Schools, an advocacy group for LGBTQ students, said in a statement Thursday that since 2007, when gender identity was added to the Iowa Civil Rights Act, there have been “zero documented incidents of transgender Iowans behaving inappropriately in restrooms.” behave”.

Republican leaders in the Legislature say restricting school toilet use by sex is more of a preventive measure than a response to a specific incident.

Holt said at least six school districts and “countless parents” have expressed concerns about the issue.

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What Happens When a School Violates the Toilet Act?

The bill would rely on citizen complaints to keep schools in compliance with the rules.

If someone believes that a school is allowing people to use facilities that do not match their birth-assigned gender, that person can file a written complaint with the school. The school would have three days to rectify the violation.

If the school doesn’t act, that citizen could file a complaint with the Attorney General. The Attorney General would investigate and take legal action if necessary.

Democrats have raised concerns about how teachers and school administrators are supposed to enforce the law when they don’t know the gender assigned to each of their students at birth.

Are toilet restrictions legal?

Similar laws in other states have faced legal challenges.

North Carolina passed the nation’s first bathroom law in 2016. The law restricted access to bathrooms for transgender people in government buildings. It was met with strong criticism, boycotts and a lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality.

The State settled that lawsuit in 2019 and it is now forbidden to pass laws that prevent transgender people from using bathrooms that conform to their gender identity.

On Wednesday, the Arkansas legislature approved a bathroom ban bill and sent it to Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The bill was criticized as an extreme limitation in the country.

The Iowa Supreme Court last year ruled in favor of a transgender Department of Corrections employee who argued that requiring someone to use a unisex restroom was gender discrimination rather than facilities that matched his gender identity.

The Iowa Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on gender, which describes physical anatomy and the gender someone identifies and presents as.

However, Senate Act 482 would amend the Iowa Civil Rights Act to say that it “shall not be an unfair or discriminatory practice” to require toilets to be used only by persons of the same sex assigned at birth.

Contribution: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Iowa legislature passes “bathroom bill” for transgender people in schools

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