Another Nevada law to legalize discrimination

Watch the hearing on the legislative website, in the archived meeting section, under Assembly Judiciary for April 10th.

Embarrassing. Ignorant. Humiliating. Sickening.

Those were the words many people used to describe their disgust at the action by the Assembly Judiciary Committee last week when it approved AB 375, the “bathroom bully bill” that would deny access to the restroom of choice by transgender students in Nevada schools.

The bill was sponsored by Republican legislators Assembly-member Victoria Dooling and Sen. Scott Hammond from Clark County. Neither made a compelling case.

Dooling read a letter into the record from an unknown doctor whose name was omitted for an unexplained reason. The secret doctor was concerned about schools allowing students to use the bathroom of their gender preference based on the student’s self reports, stating the policy would leave the door open for students with conduct disorders to “gain entrance into bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite gender to stalk and sexually abuse others.”

She then quickly left the hearing room, avoiding any questions from the committee. Sen. Hammond did not appear at all to explain his decision to jointly sponsor the bill.

Instead, the legislation was championed primarily by out-of-state advocate Karen England, an unsuccessful 2010 Republican write-in candidate for California lieutenant governor. She also led the effort against a proactive bill, signed into law in 2013 by California Gov. Jerry Brown, allowing students to choose bathrooms based on their perceived gender identity instead of their biological gender assignment at birth. California officials say there have been no reports of stalking or assaults by transgender students since the law has been in place.

Ms. England’s argument involved the rights of non-transgender youth whose “privacy and modesty rights” would apparently be trampled if transgender children were allowed to use the same bathroom facility. She spoke of the need to base policy on “gender reality” instead of gender identity.

Democratic legislators came prepared with information about the high rates of bullying and assault against transgender youth and their extremely high suicide rate, including one in San Diego earlier this month. They also raised concerns about civil rights violations and conflict with Title IX, pointing out that the separate but equal doctrine has been long retired from public policy due to its unconstitutionality and shouldn’t be resurrected to force transgender youth into segregated facilities, such as a faculty bathroom.

But it was the transgender youth and their allies who stole the show at the high-profile hearing. They spoke of fear, of harassment, of bullying and their struggles with school bathroom issues every day. They also provided an inspiring glimpse of our future leaders, confidently reading testimony from their mobile devices and speaking clearly to the crux of the issue: “Nobody should have to prove their gender in order to use the bathroom.”

Youth advocate and Las Vegas high school senior Caitlyn Caruso responded calmly to hostile questions from Republican committee members, politely pointing out the bias embedded in their offensive and ludicrous statements. One legislator complained that his children have had problems at school because they don’t “identify with gays” and are afraid of boys dressing up as girls to invade the girls bathroom. He and many others on the committee were clearly uninterested in educating themselves on transgender issues, preferring to maintain their ignorant beliefs from the last century.

Meanwhile, 2,500 UNR students turned out on campus last week to hear from transgender actress Laverne Cox, eager to learn more about people different from themselves.

In the end, Republicans succeeded in moving the bill to the full Assembly where it will get a vote unless more enlightened legislators prevail and prevent an unseemly display of sheer ignorance and lack of compassion.

Legislators would do better to consider the bill’s hashtags on Twitter as their voting guide: #TransIsBeautiful and #JustLetUsPee.