GOP lawmakers want gender restrictions in school bathrooms

Hearing considers bill restricting transgender bathroom use

Two Republican legislators are proposing a law that would ban transgender students from using the locker room or bathroom assigned to the gender with which they identify.

Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, and Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, want to require school boards to designate bathrooms and locker rooms as exclusive to one gender. They also want the Department of Justice to defend school districts in lawsuits that challenge the requirements.

An analysis of the bill from the Legislative Reference Bureau defines gender as the “physical condition of being male or female.”

Kremer said since more Wisconsin school districts are approving similar transgender policies, it is time for the state to have one uniform statute.

“Yes, it is going to require them to use a different facility. But I don’t believe it’s necessarily discriminating against them,” Kremer said.

Kremer said requiring districts to have a separate restroom for transgender students to use will actually reduce discrimination and bullying.

“Because now you’re just walking into a restroom, without telling anyone you’re using it,” Kremer said “Say you’re a female walking into a male room with 10 guys using the facility. And they know you’re in there. I could see a whole lot of harassment and bullying.”

Kremer also said the proposal equally protects “traditional” students from safety concerns.

“And I’m not saying transgender folks are sexual predators. I’m saying this could set up where you have sexual predators taking advantage of this,” Kremer said. “I’m saying that this could set up the potential for sexual predators to take advantage of having a policy that allows anyone to use a female bathroom.”

However Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, who is working to add gender identity to Wisconsin’s anti-discrimination law, said there is no evidence of that happening.

“I think it’s unfortunate that he would bring up that because it’s just trying to say transgender people are doing anything but living their lives, and use the facilities where they’re comfortable doing that. To be included with their peers, and not be discriminated against. To bring up other things that are not real is unfortunate,” Spreitzer said.

Spreitzer equates Kremer’s bill to separate but equal, saying this is why the current political climate does not supporting adding transgender men and women to state statute.

“Discrimination. And this is evidence we still have education to do,” Spreitzer said. “Literally every time somebody needs to go to the bathroom, they have to separate from their class and be singled out for being transgender.”

“As far as discrimination and harassment goes I think this policy would provide less bullying, less discrimination for those transgender individuals because it does provide them a means to use an alternate facility,” Kremer said. “Without having to announce, ‘Hey here I am, in an opposite gender restroom.'”

Madison area transgender support group leader Ginger Baier, who is a transgender woman, said attempts to change restroom laws comes down to discrimination and a lack of education.

“Drives me absolutely, totally crazy because I’m just there to pee is all,” Baier said. “If I walked into a male bathroom like this, I would be at exceedingly more risk than if I walked into the females’, a woman’s bathroom.”

While the Obama administration has ruled under Title IX, transgender students can use restrooms of the gender they identify with, Kremer said if that was legally challenged he would want a court to decide the issue.

Under Act 10, Kremer said school districts could take disciplinary action against staff if they did not comply.

The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund said the bill singles out transgender students in Wisconsin for discrimination.