Metro Weekly

Trans People in Mississippi Can Be Prosecuted for Using “Wrong” Bathroom

A new law allows Mississippi to sue transgender people who use bathrooms and other facilities that align with their gender identity.

Illustration by Todd Franson. Toilet – Photo: mmoonhirun, via 123rf

A bill signed into law by Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves bans transgender people from using public, multi-user facilities that align with their gender identities. It allows them to be prosecuted for using the “wrong” bathroom or changing facility.

Under the law, known as the “Securing Areas for Females Effectively and Responsibly (SAFER) Act,” public buildings, including educational institutions, are required to provide public, multi-user bathrooms that are exclusively for males and exclusively for females and a “single-sex or family-use restroom” that is designed for use by only one person. The bill’s restrictions also apply to locker rooms, changing rooms, and single-sex dormitories.

The bill declares that sex is “objective and fixed” and “solely determined by birth.” Any person who uses or enters a multi-user facility that does not match their assigned sex at birth, even if that person has medically transitioned, can be sued by the state’s attorney general.

The law allows any individual to sue if they believe a person has used a bathroom or changing facility that aligns with their gender identity rather than their biological sex. Educational institutions, however, cannot be sued if that person violates the law on their premises.

Reeves, a Republican, justified signing the law by claiming that transgender individuals entering single-sex spaces that align with their gender identity will put women and children at risk of assault and harassment.

“It’s mind-blowing that this is what [President] Joe Biden’s America has come to,” Reeves wrote on the social media platform X. “Having to pass common-sense policies that protect women’s spaces was unimaginable just a few years ago. But here we are… we have to pass a law to protect women in bathrooms, sororities, locker rooms, dressing rooms, shower rooms, and more.

“There’s no doubt that the left will continue to come up with more kooky ideas that harm biological women,” Reeves continued. “And there’s no doubt that Mississippi will continue to push back on them.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi criticized the bill in an April write-up explaining the legal consequences of the bill.

“This bill would require that professional, educational, and public spaces owned by the state be policed by community members,” Kerrigan Clark, an advocacy intern, and Ashley McLaughlin, the director of policy and advocacy for the organization, wrote.

“This creates paranoia, fuels hostility, and encourages private citizens to intrude upon the privacy of others…. Furthermore, this bill would add additional strain on our legal system to investigate and attempt to compensate complainants for an ‘encounter’ in the bathroom. The reality is, an ‘encounter’ can mean any number of things. This vague language sets a dangerous threshold.”

The bill marks the latest anti-transgender measure to be signed into law in the Magnolia State.

In 2023, Reeves signed a bill to ban transgender minors from accessing gender-affirming health treatments and penalize doctors who treat them.

Prior to that, in 2021, he signed a bill banning transgender athletes from competing on women’s sports teams.

The state has also recently sued the Biden administration over the U.S. Department of Education’s recently released Title IX rules requiring all schools receiving federal funding to protect transgender students from incidents of discrimination or harassment.

At least 19 other states with Republican governors or attorneys general have also filed or joined lawsuits challenging those rules.

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