Transgender bathroom bill killed in Virginia House committee with bi-partisan support
A bill which would have forced transgender Virginia students and citizens to use the restrooms aligned with their birth gender in all public buildings was killed in a House committee meeting today.
HB 781 aimed to require the Director of the Department of General Services and all state school boards to implement policies for every “public building on property that is owned, leased, or controlled by the Commonwealth and every public school restroom, locker room, and shower room that is designated for use by a specific gender” to be used solely by those whose “anatomical sex matches such gender designation.”
If anyone, including students, violates this policy, they would have been charged a $50 civil penalty, though that part was later amended to remove students from paying the fee.
“This is about protecting privacy rights, I think its reasonable,” said Del. Cole,(top image right) defending his legislation. Cole had amended the bill to allow room for people to use the restroom of the the other gender if it was to aid a child or someone with a disability, a complaint which had arisen since the bill was first proposed.
“Every student in Virginia has a fundamental right to body privacy, opening restrooms to members of the opposite sex would directly violates students’ constitutional right to privacy,” said Chris Fruend, spokesman for the conservative Richmond group The Family Foundation. He pointed to Federal Courts, like the one in Norfolk, who struck down part of transgender student Gavin Grimm’s complaint against his school board which passed a policy forcing him into a women’s restroom or a gender neutral bathroom.
“We can teach our children to be compassionate to each other without forcing young school-aged children into vulnerable interactions with the opposite sex in restrooms and locker rooms,” Fruend said, calling the bill common sense.
Andrew Wilson, (top image left) a student at Appomattox Regional Governor’s school, and a trans man, said he’d been using the male restrooms since freshmen year without incident. “If house bill 781 was implemented, I’d be forced to use the women’s facilities and locker rooms,” said the soccer team member. “This would impact me if I was at away games if people did not know I was trans,” he said.
But a point brought up by VA ACLU Executive Director seemed to seal the deal for the bill when she mentioned the issue the bill was dealing with is currently pending litigation. “It is a matter of litigation, and you do have a constitutionally founded principal of not seeking to resolve cases that are litigation,” she said, pointing to Grimm’s case as well as a challenge to Fairfax County’s supportive policy by the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Del. Thomas Greason (pictured below) spoke up about the issue around voting on legislation that was significantly similar to a court decision currently being processed for “fear the GA would send a message and influence the outcome of this court proceeding.”
“I don’t think we should use a lawsuit to shirk our responsibility in this area,” said Del. Cole, who stressed this legislation came from complaints from parents and school boards.
Greason said he didn’t think not taking action on the issue was “shirking responsibility,” but rather “it’s allowing the court proceeding specifically because we deal with these context issues in a microcosm of compressed time… to unravel a very complicated issue…. this is a little bit complicated and I’m not comfortable sending this signal to the courts in anticipation of what they may or may not decide.”
View the vote below, with 8 yeas and 13 nays.
Zakia McKensey, a native of Richmond, VA and has worked tirelessly to advocate for the transgender community and those affected or impacted by HIV/AIDS. Zakia started her career in HIV prevention in 2001 with Fan Free Clinic as the MSM (Men who sleep with Men) coordinator. She worked there for close to ten years. During [...]February 17, 2017
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