Arkansas Senate Approves Controversial Bill Criminalizing Transgender People Using Public Restrooms
The Arkansas Senate has passed a bill that would criminalize transgender people using restrooms that correspond with their gender identity, with critics calling it one of the most extreme measures of its kind in the United States. The bill, which won the approval of the majority-Republican Senate on a 19-7 vote, would allow someone to be charged with misdemeanor sexual indecency with a child if they use a public restroom or changing room “of the opposite sex while knowing a minor of the opposite sex is present.” The bill will now be considered by the majority-GOP House.
Critics of the bill argue that it is an attack on transgender people and their rights to exist publicly. They also note that this bill is one of many introduced this year targeting transgender people’s rights, with at least 155 similar bills introduced so far in 2023.
Republican Sen. John Payton, the bill’s sponsor, argues that the measure is narrowly crafted and would only apply when minors are present. He also acknowledges that it would be difficult to prosecute someone for violating the restriction. However, Sen. Joshua Bryant, the only Republican who voted against the bill, argues that the measure would allow someone to be prosecuted regardless of their intent.
The bill goes even further than a North Carolina bathroom law that was enacted in 2016 and later repealed following widespread boycotts and protests. That law did not include any criminal penalties.
The passage of this bill raises concerns about the ongoing push to limit transgender people’s rights across the country. Advocates for transgender rights argue that such measures only serve to discriminate against and further marginalize an already vulnerable population.