Last week, we wrote about Oklahoma's SB 1619, one of a growing number of "bathroom bills" inspired by North Carolina's infamous HB 2. The very same day, Oklahoma's Senate Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget voted to approve the bill, sending it to the Senate floor for a vote.
Although SB 1619 is similar to other bathroom bills in that it limits the restrooms transgender students would be allowed to use, this bill has one added ingredient: religion. If passed, it would allow a student or legal guardian to request “religious accommodations” if they attend a public school that allows transgender students to use the single-sex restroom or locker room facilities consistent with their gender identities. In addition, the school could not provide a single-occupancy facility as an accommodation; instead, the bill could require the school to establish another set of sex-segregated facilities from which transgender students would be excluded.
The bill passed through the committee with a vote of 20–15, but several committee members strongly pushed back because they believed the bill is a distraction when they are in the midst of a budget crisis.
“That we have spent an entire day, with just five days left in the session, dealing with this and not putting the brain power of this body into the budget situation makes me feel ashamed,” Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, said during the debate. The Oklahoma legislative session ends Friday, May 27.
Another committee member, Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, expressed her own frustration in a tweet:
Whether the Oklahoma legislature will be able to fast-track this harmful bill to the governor's desk by Friday remains to be seen. We hope lawmakers focus on the real challenges facing the legislature and trying to invent “solutions” to nonexistent problems. Stay tuned!