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Bills targeting transgender bathroom access flounder

David Crary
Associated Press

Bills to curtail transgender people’s access to public restrooms are pending in about a dozen states, but even in conservative bastions such as Texas and Arkansas they may be doomed by high-powered opposition.

The bills have taken on a new significance this week following the decision by President Donald Trump’s administration to revoke an Obama-era federal directive instructing public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms of their chosen gender. Many conservative leaders hailed the assertions by top Trump appointees that the issue was best handled at the state and local level.

Yet at the state level, bills that would limit transgender bathroom access are floundering even though nearly all have surfaced in Republican-controlled legislatures that share common ground politically with Trump. In none of the states with pending bills does passage seem assured; there’s been vigorous opposition from business groups and a notable lack of support from several GOP governors.

The chief reason, according to transgender-rights leaders, is the backlash that hit North Carolina after its legislature approved a bill in March 2016 requiring transgender people to use public restrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates. Several major sports organizations shifted events away from North Carolina, and businesses such as PayPal decided not to expand in the state.

“We don’t need that in Arkansas,” said that state’s GOP governor, Asa Hutchinson, earlier this month. “If there’s a North Carolina-type bill, then I want the Legislature not to pass it.”

North Carolina’s experience also has been evoked in Texas, where a “bathroom bill” known as Senate Bill 6 is being championed by GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who founded the Legislature’s tea party caucus and oversees the state Senate. Business groups and LGBT-rights supporters have warned that passage of the North Carolina-style bill could cost Texas many millions of dollars, as well as the opportunity to host future pro sports championships.

Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston, assessed the bill’s chances of enactment as “effectively zero.”

In Virginia, South Dakota and Wyoming, bills targeting transgender people already have died this year for lack of high-level support. The South Dakota bill, opposed by GOP Gov. Dennis Daugaard, would have required public school students to use the locker rooms and shower rooms matching their gender at birth.

In several other states, such as Kansas and Kentucky, bathroom bills remain alive but are gaining little traction. Kentucky’s GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, though a staunch social conservative, has dismissed the proposal as unnecessary government intrusion.

“Is there anyone you know in Kentucky who has trouble going to the bathroom?” he asked.

Evancho wants a talk with Trump

More than a month after performing at President Donald Trump’s inauguration, singer Jackie Evancho says she and her transgender sister want to meet with him about transgender rights.

The 16-year-old made the request in a tweet Wednesday night. Evancho appeared alongside her sister, Juliet, on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday . Juliet Evancho says they hope to “enlighten” the president.