The Oklahoma Flag waving outside of the Oklahoma State Capitol (Photo: Okiefromokla, via Wikimedia).
Given that anti-LGBT bills in Republican legislatures seem to come back from the grave more than zombies in a horror film, it’s hard to say whether a bill is truly “dead.” But a measure intended to counteract the Obama administration’s guidance for how public schools are to treat transgender students was blocked — at least temporarily — after it deadlocked in an Oklahoma House committee.
The House Joint Appropriations and Budget Committee voted 10-10 on a measure to move the bill to the floor for a vote of the full House. The Tulsa World reports that, under normal rules, the bill would have to have passed out of committee by Tuesday in order to be heard Friday before the legislative session adjourns. But LGBT advocates likely won’t breathe easy until they know that no last-minute procedural maneuvers will be used to force a vote.
Four Republicans joined with six Democrats to block the bill from moving forward, taking advantage of the absences of eight other committee members. Prior to the vote, lawmakers had debated the merits of the bill for nearly an hour-and-a-half.
Proponents of the measure claim it is necessary to prevent federal overreach by the Obama administration into individual schools’ policies with respect to transgender students. While the guidance issued jointly by the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education deals with a number of issues, including school records, bullying, correctly-gendered pronouns, and dress code, just to name a few, the most contentious — and galvanizing, for social conservatives — involves allowing transgender students to use locker rooms, changing facilities and restrooms that correspond with their gender identity rather than their assigned sex at birth.
As introduced, the bill would have required school districts that allow transgender students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity to grant special “religious accommodations” for students whose religious beliefs oppose homosexuality or transgenderism. But the bill also tied schools’ hands by forbidding the school from requiring those students with religious objections to use single-occupancy restrooms or changing rooms. Because it did not appropriate any funds for or require schools to construct additional bathrooms, that means that, in practice, some bathrooms would have essentially been singled out as only for transgender students and others for those cisgender students seeking the religious accommodation.
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