Transgender Bathroom Bill Advances

Feb 11, 2016

A bill that mandates accommodations for transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms in public schools is on its way to the state Senate floor. An education committee Thursday voted to pass House Bill 1008. Supporters say the measure protects students’ privacy. Opponents say it’s discrimination.

Thirty-five State Senators now get to weigh in on what’s become known as the transgender bathroom bill. House Bill 1008 had its last committee hearing Thursday, which means everyday citizens had their last chance to go on the record with lawmakers.

Thomas Wayne Lewis is a student at Sioux Falls Lincoln high school. He’s a transgender male who opposes the bill.

“That hurts. It makes us feel like we’re all alone in the world and that the stigma that we face already is real and it’s worse,” Lewis says. “It makes me feel like I am not human, that I don’t deserve the same human treatment that a cis-gender person, that a person that identifies as male or female at birth – it feels like I don’t belong there. I’m just going to be put in a box that is the problem box that is, you know, no one wants to deal with me.”

Lawmakers listened to Lewis and additional advocates against the bill.

They also heard from people who support keeping students of opposite biological sex out of gender-specific bathrooms. Florence Thompson represents South Dakota Citizens for Liberty.

“We believe this bill is the best solution to protect the innocence of children as well as the right of all children to be secure in their persons,” Thompson says. “It allows for the sensitive accommodations of students who are experiencing personal trials and does so without giving preferential treatment to a tiny segment of the student population at the expense of the privacy rights of the vast majority.”

Lawmakers voted four to two in favor of House Bill 1008. Committee chair Deb Soholt says legislators who voted for the measure Thursday may not fully support it. She says some believe that the full Senate should have an opportunity to decide.

If the Senate body approves the transgender bathroom bill, it goes to the governor’s desk.