Ever since North Carolina passed the infamous HB 2, which prohibits transgender individuals from using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, we’ve heard a lot about so-called "bathroom bills." This week, Oklahoma got in on the act by proposing SB 1619, the first of these bills to raise religion issues.
Introduced on May 19, SB 1619 would allow a student or parent or legal guardian to request a “religious accommodation” should the school district ever allow transgender students to use single-sex bathrooms, showers, or lockers rooms consistent with their gender identity. Then the bill explains that a single-occupancy restroom, athletic changing facility, or shower “shall not be an allowable accommodation." This would essentially require school districts to have an additional set of sex-segregated facilities that would bar access to transgender students.
This legislation is part of the growing backlash to the guidance released by the Obama administration last week. The guidance reminded schools that Title IX prohibits all forms of discrimination against transgender students in public schools. That means schools can't deny these students access to the restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity. Lawmakers and school superintendents across the country have sworn they won't follow the guidance. Lawmakers in Oklahoma didn’t stop with this new bill, though; they also filed a measure calling for President Obama's impeachment over the guidance.
Although Oklahoma's "bathroom bill" is the first to invoke religion, current trends suggest that it will not be the last. Lawsuits filed by Alliance Defending Freedom in Illinois and North Carolina make claims under state and federal RFRAs that sharing locker room facilities with transgender students is a violation of their clients' religious freedom. And as Mark Joseph Stern wrote at Slate, "[H]ostility toward trans people remains fundamentally religious; the same Christian denominations that lined up against the validity of same-sex marriages have lined up against the validity of the trans identity."