OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Legislature on Thursday approved a bill requiring public and public charter school students to use only the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate.
About a dozen conservative states have passed laws aimed at the transgender population, including bathroom use, athletes and banning gender confirming treatments or surgery for transgender youth.
The Oklahoma bill passed the state Senate on a 38-7 vote, then cleared the House by a 69-14 margin.
“It's about safety, it's about protection, it's about common sense,” said Republican Rep. Danny Williams, the House author of the bill. “The goal of this bill is to protect our children."
Democrats who opposed the bill said it singles out and targets transgender students, putting them at risk of ridicule.
“My child wants to go to the bathroom where he feels comfortable,” said Democratic Rep. Jacob Rosencrants, who said his son is transgender. “My kid wants to be a kid, my kid just wants to ‘be’ ...and he doesn't feel like he can do that in this state.”
The legislation now goes to Gov. Kevin Stitt, who is expected to sign it after signing an earlier bill that prevents transgender girls and women from competing on female sports teams.
The bill was proposed after Stillwater Public Schools declined to change a policy allowing students to use the bathroom that agrees with their gender identity unless forced by law to do otherwise.
Nicole McAfee, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma which supports the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and queer people, said the bill violates federal law and she is discussing legal action with other organizations, including the ACLU and Lamda Legal.
“There is no question this bill is unconstitutional,” McAfee said in a statement. “Ultimately, it will cost the state hundreds of millions in business dollars, unimaginable costs in litigation and attorney fees."
The legislation allows Oklahoma students or parents to report to school officials any student suspected of using the bathroom designated for the opposite gender.
School officials are then to investigate and determine if disciplinary action is warranted for students who refuse to comply with the legislation.
Republican Rep. Kevin West said if students have no gender designation on their birth certificate, a doctor could affirm the birth gender. He said the legislation also calls for schools to designate multi-use bathrooms for use by both genders.
Districts found in violation of the measure could be penalized up to 5% of their state funding.