20 February, 2016
The South Dakota Senate passed a bill this week that orders people in public schools to use restrooms that align with their gender at birth.
Lawmakers in the midwestern American state passed the measure Tuesday. The Senate voted 20-15 to send the bill to Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard. If he signs the bill, it will become South Dakota state law.
Daugaard earlier suggested he would support the measure. Then, last week he said he would need to study it more before making a decision.
The bill's supporters say it is meant to protect the privacy of students. Opponents say it discriminates against vulnerable young people.
The law orders schools to provide a "reasonable accommodation" for transgender students. This could mean bathrooms that serve one person at a time. Or schools could establish "controlled use" of a bathroom, locker room or shower room normally used by staff.
State Senator David Omdahl urged other legislators Tuesday to support the bill. The Republican said it was designed to keep, in his words, "the innocence of our young people."
Democratic Party lawmakers as well as some Republican Party members unsuccessfully opposed the measure in the Senate.
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota and the Human Rights Campaign have publicly opposed the measure. The groups called on Daugaard to veto the legislation.
Chad Griffin is president of the non-profit Human Rights Campaign. He said in a statement Tuesday, "History has never looked kindly upon those who attack the basic civil rights of their fellow Americans, and history will not treat kindly those who support this discriminatory measure."
Transgender supporters have criticized Omdahl and other lawmakers' comments about transgender people. At a recent event, for example, Omdahl called transgenders "twisted."
Thomas Lewis is a transgender student in his final year of high school in Sioux Falls, the state's most populous city. He described the passage of the bill as "shocking."
Lewis said, "At this point, I'm hoping that the governor has a sense of humanity and the common sense not to write this bill into law."
Federal officials say barring students from restrooms that correspond to their gender identity violates the federal law known as Title IX.
Transgender issues are more public because of celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner. Jenner was Bruce Jenner and identified as a male when he won gold in the Decathalon at the summer Olympics in 1976. But last year, the former athlete came out as a transgender woman with the new name of Caitlyn.
I'm Caty Weaver.
The Associated Press reported on this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.
What do you think about the bill? Should the South Dakota governor sign it into law? Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.
Words in This Story
restroom – n. a room in a public place with a sink and toilet
transgender – adj. of or relating to people who have a sexual identity that is not clearly male or clearly female
vulnerable – adj. easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally
accommodation – n. something done to provide what is needed or wanted for someone or something
staff – n. a group of people who work for an organization or business
twisted – adj. strange and unpleasant : not normal