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Given the absence of the news coverage it deserves, the nation’s media seems torn between not discussing Texas Senate Bill 1646 and keeping in the dark, where it should have remained. Yet the recent history of the nation suggests that bills such as this need to be dragged out of the caves and blinded by the right amount of light before being scrubbed with bleach.
To make this as clear and brief as possible, the state of Texas could remove trans children from their homes if their parents affirm the child’s gender.
The most recent action taken on SB 1646 is that it is pending in committee, after public hearing and testimony on April 12th. While this bill may or may not become Texas law, the fact that it has come this far stretches human and judicial logic.
"Aside from the fact that it boggles the mind that a state legislature is even entertaining such a bill in 2021, the courts would have field day with this. Any state law that would consider a parent of a trans child to be a child abuser for supporting who they are is deeply unconstitutional in spirit and practice."
Of course, Texas is not acting in isolation, as cowardly legislation tends travel in packs, like vermin. This week, the Arkansas Governor, Asa Hutchinson (R), suggested that the GOP “get back to its principles” and show compassion to trans people. Which would be great had Arkansas not had a bill similar to that of Texas, Arkansas House Bill 1882, which allows people that share bathrooms with trans people to sue. This bill is being debated this week in Arkansas by the state agencies of governmental affairs. Not to be outdone by Texas, Arkansas lawmakers seem determined to make Arkansas not only the national leader in anti-trans legislation, but a true city on the hill for the global anti-trans movements.
The Arkansas legislation would give someone the right to sue if they encounter someone that was assigned to a different sex at birth than them in a restroom. These actionable restroom encounters would be limited to offices, schools, and facilities run by the government. Reasonable accommodation would need to be provided not to the trans person but to any person who does not want to share a bathroom with them. Parenthetically, this is Arkansas ninth anti-trans bill.
And not to be outdone, Florida jumped into the fray on April 14th, with their House passing (by a 77-40 vote) an anti-trans bill. HB 1475. This bill, if it becomes Florida law, would require transgender high school and college students to compete in sports based on their birth gender. According to a report in the Tallahassee Democrat, during hours of debate Tuesday, House Democrats made impassioned objections to the measure, arguing that it targets already-vulnerable transgender teens and adults.
Finally, while not from this week but way, way back to three weeks ago, the Tennessee Governor, Bill Lee, signed a bill into law that requires students to prove what their sex was at birth. Tennessee HB3 makes it a new requirement that a student’s gender “for purposes of participation in a public middle school or high school interscholastic athletic activity or event be determined by the student's sex at the time of the student's birth, as indicated on the student's original birth certificate."
Even (with a strong emphasis on the “even”) the often misguided NCAA has come out against these anti-trans bills, suggesting that it would not hold events in states that disseminate against trans students. Having been under the judicial microscope of late for continuing their long-standing practice of using their student-athletes as indentured labor, the NCAA’s bold stance here is in response to not just SB 1646, but six bills in the Texas legislature that target transgender students’ sports participation.
In the NCAA statement, they reference their decade-old transgender policy, which itself is not without controversy. The NCAA follows the same protocol as the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee in making testosterone suppression treatment for transgender women mandatory for them to compete in women’s sports.
Yet their position statement does provide a foundation for other powerful organizations and corporations to build their own action:
“When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected. We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants.”
The actual chances of any of these anti-trans bills becoming law are probably higher than we would care to imagine. Given the zeitgeist, if any of these current bills fail, there are surely more to come.
Aron Solomon is the Head of Digital Strategy for NextLevel.com and an adjunct professor of business management at the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University.