Sen. pushes bill limiting transgender bathroom access

Jonathan Oosting Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — State Sen. Tom Casperson introduced controversial legislation Wednesday that would limit school bathroom and locker room access for transgender students but require schools to offer single-occupancy or unisex bathrooms in some cases.

Casperson, an Escanaba Republican running for congress in Michigan’s 1st House District, announced the bill last month in response to the State Board of Education’s proposed guidelines for schools and transgender students criticized by conservatives for limiting parental involvement in gender identity decisions.

“My bill would stop this policy dead in its tracks,” he said at the time, weeks before the Obama administration would issue a more sweeping directive saying schools must permit transgender students to use the bathroom or locker room of their self-identified gender.

Casperson’s legislation was referred Wednesday to the Senate Government Operations Committee, chaired by Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive. Many bills sent to that committee do not end up seeing action, and Meekhof was noncommittal when asked if the proposal will be a priority.

“You guys can judge that,” Meekhof told reporters.

Casperson’s legislation requires public schools to make “reasonable accommodations” for transgender students who declare an identity different from their biological sex if they have parental permission, are 18 years old or are an emanicipated minor.

The bill defines a reasonable accommodation as one that doesn’t “impose an undue hardship on a school district.” It bans districts from letting transgender students use bathrooms, locker rooms or shower rooms if students of the opposite biological sex are present.

The legislation directs school districts to provide transgender students with the use of single-occupancy restrooms, unisex bathrooms or “the controlled use of a restroom, locker room or shower room that is designated for use by faculty.”

Equality Michigan — a group representing gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals — circulated an email Wednesday opposing the proposal and labeling it a “North Carolina style bathroom inspection bill.”

“It will endanger the health and safety of transgender students and clearly violates Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination in public schools,” Equality Michigan said in a statement. “Senator Casperson and the other members of the legislature need to hear a loud and clear message from you: This is not who we are.”

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