Arkansas Bill Would Let Bigots Sue For Pain And Suffering If They See Trans People In Public Bathrooms
Last week, Arkansas GOP Governor Asa Hutchinson did a good thing and vetoed a bill that would criminalize healthcare for transgender kids. Naturally, the Republican-majority legislature in the state was less than pleased, but determined to make their their state even more inhospitable to transgender people than it already is just by virtue of being Arkansas. So they overrode the veto. The Arkansas House passed a bill allowing teachers to misgender their students and call them by the wrong names, and now they want to pass another, equally terrible bill meant to facilitate discrimination against trans people.
The "Arkansas Privacy Accommodations Act," (HB 1882), sponsored by Rep. Cindy Crawford (not that Cindy Crawford), would allow people who happen to encounter a trans person in the bathroom of a public agency or entity to sue for "monetary damages for all psychological, emotional, and physical harm suffered." How one would even begin to quantify something so ridiculous is unclear.
The bill is set to go before the State Agencies and Government Affairs committee today, and will likely be passed, given that the Arkansas legislature seems to really hate trans people.
Co-sponsoring the bill is none other than Mary Bentley, the Arkansas Republican who was the primary sponsor of both the bill that would allow teachers to bully trans students and the bill to teach creationism in schools. She's a real peach.
The bill defines "sex" as "a person's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth" — a definition clearly meant to appeal to transphobes who don't even know intersex people exist. However, it also says that "evidence of a person's biological sex includes without limitation any government-issued identification document that accurately reflects a person's sex."
Surprisingly, it is actually fairly easy to change one's gender on an Arkansas driver's license — all one needs to do is to ask the clerk at the DMV office to change the gender to M, F or X. Because guess what? As super backwards as Arkansas is, they have a nonbinary gender option on their driver's licenses, and they were the first state to do so, back in 2010. Go figure.
Now, sure. They expressly say "that accurately reflects a person's sex," but how the hell are they going to know? Are they going to actually inspect people's genitals? Ask to see their birth certificates to see what gender they were assigned when they were born? How far are they planning to take this? And boy, won't things get awkward in these bathrooms when these transphobes think they see someone who is of the "opposite sex" in their bathrooms but isn't? Will they still be entitled to damages for the "psychological, emotional and physical harm" suffered if they're wrong? Because there are many, many ways this could go wrong, especially if Arkansas expects transgender men to use the women's room and expects transgender women to use the men's room.
Of course, bigots are not known for having a particularly strong grasp on logic.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse