Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law Wednesday that requires students to use school restrooms that correspond to their sex as indicated on their birth certificates.
Stitt signed the bill after the state Senate and House approved it, 38-7 and 69-14, respectively.
The bill requires every K-12 public and charter school in the state to designate all restrooms or changing areas, except for single-occupancy, for exclusive use of the male or female sex.
Sex, states the legislation, is “the physical condition of being male or female based on genetics and physiology, as identified on the individual’s original birth certificate.”
Schools are instructed to provide reasonable accommodations for those students who do not wish to comply with the new law’s requirement, specifically the creation of a single-occupancy restroom or changing area.
School boards or charter school governing boards that do not comply with the provisions of the new law will receive a 5 percent decrease in state funding for the next fiscal year.
Parents will be able to file lawsuits against public school districts or charter school governing boards that do not comply with the law.
Tamya Cox-Touré, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Oklahoma affiliate said in a statement the new law puts the state “at risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding, and harms transgender youth, all to solve a problem that plainly does not exist.”
“By singling out transgender students for discrimination and excluding them from restrooms that match their gender identity, SB 615 discriminates based on transgender status and sex in violation of the United States Constitution and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act,” Cox-Touré added.
The ACLU official appeared to disregard any concern about privacy in restrooms:
Transgender students already live and go to school in our state. They go to the restroom just like everyone else, and their presence harms no one. SB 615 has and will continue to cause severe harms to transgender students who are just trying to live their lives and go to school alongside their peers.
As ABC News reported, however, State Representative Danny Williams (R), who authored the House bill, said the legislation is “about safety, it’s about protection, it’s about common sense.”
“The goal of the bill is to protect our children,” he added.
Joe Biden signed an executive order on the day of his inauguration that seeks to fight perceived discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
In June 2021, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights issued a Notice of Interpretation stating that it will enforce Title IX’s ban on discrimination on the basis of sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
According to a press release, the department linked its interpretation of sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, issued in 2020, a case that addressed employment in civil rights law.
“The Supreme Court has upheld the right for LGBTQ+ people to live and work without fear of harassment, exclusion, and discrimination – and our LGBTQ+ students have the same rights and deserve the same protections,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement last June.
“I’m proud to have directed the Office for Civil Rights to enforce Title IX to protect all students from all forms of sex discrimination,” he added. “Today, the Department makes clear that all students — including LGBTQ+ students — deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in schools that are free from discrimination.”
The Biden Department of Agriculture (USDA) has also recently announced that all state and local agencies that receive federal funding for meals, a category that includes schools, must not discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Stitt has also signed bills to block biological males claiming to identify as female from playing on girls’ or women’s sports teams in public schools or universities, and prohibiting transgender individuals from changing their birth certificates.
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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].