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Republican lawmaker wants to ban transgender students from bathrooms of their choice

Mar 29, 2016

Credit Tony Webster

  State Senator Tom Casperson, a Republican from the UP, says he’ll introduce a bill requiring Michigan students to “only use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their birth” sex, unless they have “written consent from a parent or guardian.”

Even then, transgender student would be barred from locker rooms or bathrooms “of the opposite sex … if those facilities are in use or could be in use,” according to a release from Casperson’s office Tuesday.

Instead, the proposed law would force trans students to use a staff bathroom or single-occupancy restroom.

The ACLU of Michigan says this proposal is plainly unconstitutional, and staff attorney Jay Kaplan says they’d consider suing the state if it becomes law.

“I think it’s a mean-spirited, misguided piece of legislation, and it’s clearly in violation of the law,” says Kaplan. “This kind of legislation, it’s built on lies that have been peddled by opponents of LGBT rights – that somehow transgender students engage in predatory behavior, and that somehow transgender students, just by their very being, are a threat to the public safety.”

The ACLU is already suing North Carolina over a law that, among other things, makes it illegal for someone to use a bathroom that doesn’t match the sex on their birth certificate.

Big employers like Apple, Dow Chemical, and American Airlines are also opposing the North Carolina law.

Republicans go after the State Board of Ed over LGBT policies

This Michigan bill is Casperson’s attempt to head off new recommendations from the State Board of Education.

The board’s considering new, completely optional suggestions for schools about supporting LGBT kids – including allowing transgender students to be addressed by their chosen names, and use the bathrooms, locker rooms, sports teams and PE classes that fit their gender identity.

Several Republican lawmakers have railed against the draft recommendations. More than 4,000 commenters have already weighed on in the proposals online.

Some posters say they feel like the board wants to cut parents out of the conversation, because of one of the proposed recommendations labeled “Privacy and Confidentiality Regarding Disclosures:"   

Transgender and [Gender Non-Conforming] students have the right to decide when, with whom, and to what extent the share private information. When contacting the parent/guardian of a transgender or GNC student, school staff should use the student’s legal name and the pronoun corresponding to the student’s assigned sex at birth, unless the student or parent/guardian has specified otherwise.

Board President John Austin says while they’re mindful of parents who may not be supportive of a child’s transgender identity, he does want to rewrite the recommendations to make it clear that schools and parents should work together as much as possible.

“We definitely need to revise the language, and the goal here – we must encourage parents, school personnel, and the student to work together and support them if at all possible,” says Austin. “We can’t legislate it, we can’t make it happen if the parents aren’t supportive of a transgender student. I feel for that student … and we need to help make the environment in the school supportive for them to go about the business of learning.”

But critics like Casperson say the board needs to be stopped.

“In the pursuit of social justice, this so-called draft guidance document creates numerous problems, from the elimination of parental authority and notification to threatening student safety and beyond," Casperson says in a statement Tuesday. "My bill would stop this policy dead in its tracks.”

Meanwhile, ACLU of Michigan staff attorney Jay Kaplan says they would potentially sue the state if Casperson’s bill becomes law.

“We would absolutely consider filing a lawsuit, it’s clearly so unconstitutional,” he says. “It’s in violation of the Equal Protection clause, it violates the federal civil rights law Title IX, which protects transgender students against discrimination. And it also violates one’s constitutionally protected right to medical privacy.”

Casperson’s office did not respond Tuesday to requests for comment.