Metro Weekly

Indiana bill would criminalize transgender restroom use

Using a restroom or changing facility for the opposite sex could result in up to one year in jail

Indiana State Capitol building (Photo: Diego Delso, via Wikimedia Commons).

Indiana State Capitol building (Photo: Diego Delso, via Wikimedia Commons).

An Indiana lawmaker has introduced and is pushing a bill that could potentially place transgender people in jail for up to a year if they use the restroom or locker room other than the one designated for their biological sex at birth.

The bill, introduced by State Sen. Jim Tomes (R-Wadesville), would add a provision to the law making those who use public restroom or changing facilities designated for the opposite sex guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. Under Indiana law, a Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

The bill also calls upon school administrators to ensure that restrooms and any facility where students partially or fully undress, such as a locker room, are segregated by gender and that students use only those facilities designated for their biological sex. However, there would be no criminal penalty for a student who uses a restroom designated for the opposite sex. Criminal penalties for use of public facilities would also not apply to children under the age of 18.

There are three exemptions in the law, which can be cited as a defense if an adult is ever accused of using a facility designated for the opposite sex. Those exemptions are for janitors, a person who enters a restroom or facility to provide medical assistance, and adults accompanying minors who are under the age of eight.

Freedom Indiana, the state’s LGBT organization pushing for a trans-inclusive nondiscrimination bill, decried the legislation for “targeting” transgender people by creating “ridiculous standards for bathroom usage.”

“We’ve become aware of harmful legislation that’s been filed at the Statehouse that would target and punish transgender Hoosiers for being who they are,” the organization said in a press release. “This legislation, which would put Indiana law in conflict with federal law, is specifically aimed at transgender youth, who already are very vulnerable to bullying and depression. 

“The Indiana General Assembly is no place for scare tactics. We know there will be attempts in the upcoming session to promote fear over reality, but we also know that a majority of Hoosiers want to see gay and transgender people protected under our civil rights law, and we won’t let anything distract us from that goal. We hope lawmakers will stay similarly focused on making our state safe and welcoming for all people.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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