Virginia lawmakers may spend their time during the 2017 legislative session debating a “bathroom bill” that would impose North Carolina-style restrictions on public sex-specific restrooms in government buildings, including in schools.
Del. Bob Marshall (R-Manassas, Manassas Park, Bull Run) has introduced HB 1612, a bill designed to target transgender people’s ability to access facilities that comport with their gender identity or expression. This would apply to any sex-segregated restrooms and changing facilities used by more than one person at a time, and would criminalize individuals who use facilities designated for the opposite sex than the one listed on their “original birth certificate.”
The bill provides some narrow exemptions for medical personnel, maintenance or custodial staffers (provided the facility is vacant at the time), or for parents assisting a minor child or person with a disability. The bill allows government agencies to provide single-occupancy restrooms or changing facilities at an individual’s request, so long as the accommodation does not include “access to a restroom, changing facility or private area that is designated for use by members of the opposite sex while members of the opposite sex are present.”
Perhaps the most pernicious part of the bill involves a clause by which school administrators would be required to “out” transgender or gender-nonconforming students to their parents. Under the language of the bill, if a child requests to be recognized or treated as the “opposite sex,” to use a name or pronouns inconsistent with, or to use facilities other than those specifically designated for, their assigned gender at birth, the school’s principal shall notify the child’s parent or legal guardian within 24 hours.
Robert Rigby, the president of FCPS Pride, a group that supports LGBT students, employees and staff in Fairfax County, sent an email alerting allies of the bill’s existence on Wednesday morning. Rigby said members of his organization were particularly alarmed at the parental notification provision.
“Family support is the most important variable in personal outcomes for LGBT students; yet students must be able to gauge how and when to discuss their gender identity with their parents,” Rigby wrote. “Compelling principals to ‘out’ students’ transgender status to their parents when the child is not prepared for it, without support and planning, can have dire consequences, as our experience has shown.”
Marshall’s bill has not yet been assigned to any committee for a hearing. LGBT rights organization Equality Virginia will be holding a press call at 2 p.m. to discuss Marshall’s bill.
Brian Coy, the communications director for Gov. Terry McAuliffe, reiterated the governor’s opposition to any anti-LGBT legislation.
“Governor McAuliffe has been clear that he will veto any bill that restricts the rights of Virginians based on sexual orientation or gender identity. As we saw in North Carolina, these bills don’t just hamper civil rights — they kill jobs,” Coy said. “The Governor is hopeful that Republicans in the General Assembly will drop these counterproductive bills and turn their focus toward building a stronger and more equal Virginia economy.”
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include a response from Gov. McAuliffe’s office.