Con­ser­va­tives push GOP for bath­room bill

Pro­posal would bar the use of fa­cil­i­ties based on gen­der iden­tity

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2017 - BY GRA­HAM MOOMAW gmoomaw@times­dis­patch.com (804) 649-6839 Twit­ter: @gmoomaw

Fam­ily-val­ues con­ser­va­tives turned up the pres­sure on Vir­ginia Repub­li­can law­mak­ers Thurs­day over a con­tro­ver­sial trans­gen­der bath­room bill, hold­ing a news con­fer­ence at the Capi­tol to call for an up-or­down vote.

The Vir­ginia First Foun­da­tion, a group that pro­claims to up­hold “Judeo-Chris­tian cul­ture,” or­ga­nized the hour­long event in sup­port of Del. Robert G. Mar­shall’s pro­posal to re­quire schools and govern­ment fa­cil­i­ties to bar trans­gen­der peo­ple from en­ter­ing bath­rooms cor­re­spond­ing to their gen­der iden­tity rather than their birth sex.

Sup­port­ers of the bill, which LGBT ad­vo­cates and Democrats de­nounce as dis­crim­i­na­tory, un­nec­es­sary and bad for busi­ness, said it would pro­tect against male preda­tors pos­ing as trans­gen­der women and en­sure equal op­por­tu­nity for girls in schools.

“If you par­don the pun, it’s time for men to be men. And pro­tect women and chil­dren,” said Terry Beat­ley, pres­i­dent of the Hosea Ini­tia­tive, who aimed her com­ments specif­i­cally at House Speaker Wil­liam J. How­ell, R-Stafford, and other Repub­li­cans queasy about the bill.

“Feel­ing black does not make a per­son black,” said Ju­dith Reis­man, a re­search pro­fes­sor at Lib­erty Univer­sity who said she has stud­ied “sex­ual rad­i­cal­ism.”

Af­ter the fall­out over a sim­i­lar bill in North Carolina, Vir­ginia’s ver­sion of the bath­room bill, House Bill 1612, has brought early fire­works to the 2017 ses­sion, but the spec­ta­cle may be out­pac­ing po­lit­i­cal re­al­i­ties. The bill is un­likely to pass out of the Repub­li­can Gen­eral Assem­bly. Even if it did, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Demo­crat, would surely veto it.

Still, Thurs­day’s event proved Mar­shall, a Prince Wil­liam County Repub­li­can known for push­ing hot-but­ton leg­is­la­tion, won’t be stand­ing alone. Mar­shall said he hopes a public pres­sure cam­paign will force Repub­li­can lead­ers to take up the bill rather than bury­ing it in com­mit­tee.

Among Mar­shall’s al­lies Thurs­day was Cyn­thia Dun­bar, Vir­ginia’s Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee­woman who was elected to that post at a party con­ven­tion last year. Dun­bar said the Repub­li­can plat­form takes a clear po­si­tion against Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s di­rec­tive to schools to al­low trans­gen­der stu­dents to use the bath­room of their choice.

“If you don’t know what is in the plat­form, I en­cour­age you to please read it and to know what the ex­pec­ta­tions of your Repub­li­can con­stituents are,” said Dun­bar, who beat out Suzanne Oben­shain, the wife of Sen. Mark D. Oben­shain, R-Rock­ing­ham, for the RNC role.

Mar­shall’s bill goes fur­ther than sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion in other states by re­quir­ing prin­ci­pals to no­tify the par­ents of any stu­dents who re­quests ac­com­mo­da­tions for be­ing trans­gen­der.

Mar­shall ac­cused How­ell of want­ing to qui­etly send the bill to “a star cham­ber for ex­e­cu­tion.”

In an in­ter­view, How­ell de­nied hav­ing such sweep­ing pow­ers and said he had al­ready as­signed the bill to a com­mit­tee.

“I think it’ll get a fair hear­ing,” How­ell said. “I said it be­fore. It’s just Bob be­ing Bob.”

How­ell said the bill prob­a­bly wouldn’t sur­vive the Se­nate, let alone the governor.

“We have a lot of im­por­tant things that we’re do­ing right now, whether it be job cre­ation, higher ed­u­ca­tion, what­ever,” How­ell said. “And this is just a dis­trac­tion.”

A civil-lib­er­ties law­suit aris­ing from a Vir­ginia trans­gen­der stu­dent’s bat­tle with the Glouces­ter County School Board may set­tle the le­gal ques­tion na­tion­wide. The U.S. Supreme Court has taken up the case and is ex­pected to hear oral ar­gu­ments in March.

Mar­shall said Repub­li­cans shouldn’t use the law­suit as an ex­cuse for in­ac­tion and pointed to pre­vi­ous ex­am­ples where the leg­is­la­ture acted in ar­eas with pend­ing le­gal cases.

“For all the Repub­li­cans who want to hide and pre­tend they don’t have to deal with it, I’m go­ing to see if you voted for these bills and oth­ers like it,” Mar­shall said. “Be­cause your rea­sons are spu­ri­ous.”

Some sup­port­ers of Mar­shall’s bill called the trans­gen­der bath­room is­sue the lat­est bat­tle in a long-run­ning cul­ture war span­ning the sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion, abor­tion rights move­ment and ac­cep­tance of gay mar­riage. Oth­ers pleaded for a more civil dis­cus­sion of what they see as a press­ing public pol­icy is­sue for par­ents that is of­ten scoffed at as un­se­ri­ous or fu­eled by hate.

El­iz­a­beth Schultz, a mem­ber of the Fair­fax County School Board, said the is­sue is par­tic­u­larly prob­lem­atic for stu­dents from other coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly those from Ara­bic cul­tures.

“There are real is­sues of moral clar­ity for some peo­ple in our school sys­tems that have to do with cul­tural norms, that have to do with re­li­gious norms,” Schultz said.

“Good pol­icy has to be rooted in re­al­ity. In this case, bi­o­log­i­cal re­al­ity, “said David A. LaRock, R-Loudoun, who said he will co-pa­tron Mar­shall’s bill. “I could not in­tro­duce my­self as a 6-year-old Asian fe­male with­out pro­vok­ing a re­ac­tion.”

Sev­eral LGBT-rights groups at­tended the event, and things went off script when Theodore Kahn, a 32-year-old trans­gen­der man from Richmond, stood up and point­edly asked where the bill’s pro­po­nents felt he should go to the bath­room. “Not here,” Mar­shall replied. Travis Witt of the Vir­ginia First Foun­da­tion an­swered by say­ing there should be a third bath­room op­tion that could be a place for fam­i­lies.

“I’m not a fam­ily,” Kahn in­ter­jected. “Ex­cuse me, sir,” Witt said. “You called me sir!” Kahn said.

BOB BROWN/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

ABOVE: Del. Robert G. Mar­shall (left), R-Prince Wil­liam, ad­dressed a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day at the state Capi­tol, where he and oth­ers spoke in fa­vor of his trans­gen­der bath­room bill. AT LEFT: Theodore Kahn, 32, a trans­gen­der man from Richmond, asked the bill’s sup­port­ers which bath­room they thought he should use.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.