On Tuesday, Arkansas joined a growing list of states that have made it illegal for transgender students to make use of the bathroom that aligns with their new gender identity in public schools.
The bill, which applies to locker rooms and restrooms with multiple users in public and charter schools from kindergarten through high school, was signed into law by Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
The law won’t take effect until April 7, 2023—ninety days after the current legislative session ends—but it will be in place before the 2023–24 academic year begins.
Opponents have said the legislation doesn’t provide schools with cash to make adequate accommodations for transgender children, such as single-person toilets, as mandated by the new law.
If a state commission finds that a superintendent, administrator, or teacher has violated the rule, they could be punished as least $1,000. If the new law isn’t strictly enforced, parents will have the option to bring private lawsuits.
Proposals to implement bans or limitations on transgender individuals have reemerged at a historic speed around the country, although North Carolina’s legislation prohibiting transgender persons from using the bathroom of their choice was repealed six years ago due to demonstrations and boycotts.
More than two dozen bills have been brought to legislative bodies, the Human Rights Campaign reports, with the goals of restricting or prohibiting gender-affirming care for minors, prohibiting transgender girls from competing with biological girls and limiting drag shows, especially in settings where children are present.
Another current Arkansas law would make it a crime to use a public restroom or changing room that does not correspond with one’s biological sex when a minor is present.
ACT UP Arkansas executive director Holly Dickson told The Associated Press that the proposed bill is a “flagrant message” that shows some politicians “refuse to accept” the rights and humanity of transgender individuals.
Arkansas is the fourth state to pass a “bathroom bill” for use at public institutions of learning. Alabama, Oklahoma, and Tennessee all have similar legislation on the books, but the restrictions in the latter two have been challenged in court. The legislatures in Idaho and Iowa have also approved bills that need to be signed by the governors of those states.
This is yet another accomplishment for Governor Sanders of Arkansas, who recently signed a bill into law permitting a pro-life memorial to be erected near the state Capitol to honor the lives lost due to abortion.
The privately sponsored “monument to the unborn” would memorialize the number of abortions in Arkansas before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, which empowered states to determine their abortion laws.
The state House adopted the measure last Thursday, following the state Senate’s endorsement earlier in the month.
The monument’s placement and authorization must be coordinated through the Arkansas secretary of state per the terms of the new statute. The statute mandates that pro-life organizations be consulted while selecting the artist and designing the memorial.
Sanders signed the law on Tuesday, a week after approving legislation that makes it easier to sue medical practitioners who offer gender-affirming care to kids and a couple of weeks after passing legislation that bans training on gender identity and sexual orientation until the fifth grade.