Advocacy Groups Work to Defeat Transgender Legislation in States

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February 19, 2016; Chicago Sun Times Network

A coalition of child advocacy groups has joined with the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group and political lobbying organization to advocate against bills being introduced in a number of states, which they call “outrageous legislation that would prevent transgender students in public schools from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.”

The story from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) talks about South Dakota’s governor, who soon must decide whether to veto such a bill. Seven national health, education, and child advocacy groups joined HRC to call on governors across the U.S. “to reject the alarming and discriminatory bills being promoted in state legislatures targeting transgender children and their fundamental rights.”

The call coincides with the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington this past weekend. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American School Counselor Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association all signed on to an open letter to the governors.

A survey by HRC’s foundation found that 75 percent of transgender students felt unsafe in school settings, a percentage the organization says will only rise if those proposals become law. They also contradict the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice, which issued guidance in 2014 stating, in HRC’s words “Discrimination based on a person’s gender identity, a person’s transgender status, or a person’s nonconformity to sex stereotypes constitutes discrimination based on sex. As such, prohibiting a student from accessing the restrooms that match his [or her] gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination under Title IX.”

Since the 2014 guidance was issued, HRC reports that state legislatures have seen the introduction of some two dozen bills that seek to deny transgender students access to appropriate restrooms and locker rooms, as well as preventing them from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

If the districts adhere to these laws, HRC says they risk losing federal funding in addition to exposure to lawsuits and other liability claims.—Larry Kaplan