Virginia’s bill is sponsored by Bob Marshall, a GOP delegate who has, as Slate chronicles, a colorful record of legislation to his name. (The Republican speaker of the House of Delegates dismissed Marshall’s latest bill to the Richmond Times-Dispatch as “Bob being Bob.”) The proposal uses slightly different language, though it achieves the same goal.
The unusual element of the Virginia bill is one of the final clauses, which would force school authorities to out any students who came out as transgender at school to their parents. Principals would be required to notify parents without 24 hours of any request to be “recognized or treated as the opposite sex, to use a name or pronouns inconsistent with the child's sex, or to use a restroom or changing facility designated for the opposite sex.”
Virginia’s bill also faces strong headwinds. The state’s governor, Terry McAuliffe, is a Democrat, and last year, a similar bill died last year in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates, with Republicans citing pending federal legislation. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in April that a school district in Virginia should allow Gavin Grimm, a transgender teenager, to use the men’s bathroom. That case is now headed to the Supreme Court.
But pending court decisions have not discouraged conservatives from continuing to propose the laws. Richard Mast, senior litigation attorney with Liberty Counsel, a social-conservative legal nonprofit, said the Obama administration guidance, which said that schools risked federal funds if they did not follow the federal interpretation of “sex discrimination” to include gender identity, had produced a backlash. “It was heavy-handed, in that they were threatening and bullying school districts into loss of funds,” Mast said.
Mast said Liberty Counsel had been providing model language for legislation to lawmakers, among other efforts to lobby for such laws. He said Texas’s bill was “very similar language to what we have provided” to legislators, school boards, and others around the country.
“People want to maintain privacy,” he said. “They want to be assured that their safety, particularly of children is maintained in restrooms like this.” Mast said Liberty Counsel recommended providing single-stall restrooms to students with gender dysphoria.
If these bills are born out of a frustration with rapidly changing norms, the ones on the table now also appear to be driven by the chance to make a political splash, from Marshall’s attempt to resurrect last year’s failed bill to Nelson’s bid to bring up a proposal that Kentucky’s Republican leadership has already rejected. Dan Patrick is seen as a politician with designs on higher office, and even a failed S.B. 6 could help raise his profile and solidify his conservative bona fides.
Chase Strangio, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who works on LGBT issues, says the lawmakers introducing bills now were “people who are committed to targeting the trans community.”