Pierre, South Dakota – The state senate approved on Tuesday a bill that will require transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms in public schools that correspond to their gender at birth.
South Dakota could be the first state in the U.S. to approve the law if the state’s governor, Republican Dennis Daugaard, who has responded positively to the measure, approves the bill. Advocates say the bill is meant to protect the privacy of students.
Governor Daugaard has said that he will research the issue before deciding whether to sign the legislation. If the bill is approved schools would have to provide accommodation for transgender students, such as a single-occupancy bathroom or the controlled use of a staff-designated restroom, locker room or shower room.
Discriminatory bill or privacy protection
The bill has unleashed a dispute among religious conservatives and gender rights advocates.
The American Civil Liberties Union said in an online post that South Dakota lawmakers are sending a message that it’s okay to segregate, humiliate, and bully transgender students.
Advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights say the bill puts transgender students under a spotlight, which could leave emotional scars as they are likely going through personal struggles. Bill Mawhiney, treasurer for the Center for Equality, an LGBT-rights advocacy group in Sioux Falls, S.D. said this is about kids that are just understanding their gender identity and the last thing they need is to be labeled.
On the other hand, supporters of the bill have hailed it as a way of upholding the state’s moral values, and a necessary step toward protecting students’ privacy.
Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, a national conservative Christian group based in Washington said the bill is a way of protecting the privacy of rights of the majority while also providing a reasonable accommodation for the minority of people who identify as transgender.
Moreover, Republican Senator David Omdahl said before voting for the bill that its purpose is to protect young children who are too innocent to understand the complexity of life.
But others say that even as the controversy over the bills highlights divisions, it also points to the possibility of eventual compromise.
“I think in this case we’re seeing a proxy-battle in the larger ongoing culture war between traditionalists and progressives,” writes Erik Fogg, founder of Something to Consider, a Massachusetts-based organization that seeks to promote productive dialogue on divisive issues. “People who want to compromise, those people exist. We start by working on it on case-by-case bases and see where we can go from there.”
Transgender student says South Dakota bill doesn’t accept him
Thomas Lewis, 18-year-old senior has even spoken to his state’s Legislature against the bill telling them that such a law “makes me feel like I’m not a human being.”
Lewis came out in March when he read aloud, during an event in Sioux Falls, a poem he had written about a transgender man named Thomas. Since then, teachers have been calling him by his new name. His mother and close friends have also accepted him without question, but now, he says the law means that no matter what people might think at school or how much they accept him, the state doesn’t.
Source: Fox News