ACLU, Freedom OK talk abt bathroom measure

Posted at 6:15 AM, May 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-25 08:51:10-04

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- An Oklahoma House committee has killed legislation that would require schools to provide separate restrooms for students who object to sharing them with transgender students.

The bill, Senate Bill 1619, died Tuesday when lawmakers deadlocked 10-10 after committee members expressed concern about the cost schools would incur in providing separate bathrooms.

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The measure was filed last week in opposition to the federal government's guidance on the use of bathrooms and locker rooms by transgender students. It would have allowed students to ask schools for an "accommodation based on the student's sincerely held religious beliefs" to avoid having to share restrooms with transgender students.

Chambers of commerce in Oklahoma City and Tulsa had urged lawmakers to kill the bill, warning of the "severe economic damage" that otherwise could result.

In response, the executive director of Freedom Oklahoma said, "Freedom Oklahoma applauds the defeat of SB 1619. In a time when our state is in economic crisis it is unimaginable that a handful of legislators are pushing the politics of distraction that threatened to cost our state millions of dollars in federal funding. It is a sad state of affairs when lawmakers are willing to trade the education and the future of our youth to push an agenda of ignorance and hate. We will continue to push back against these unwarranted, hateful attacks on the LGBTQ community. 

Ryan Kiesel the ACLU of Oklahoma executive director, said, "For today at least, we celebrate an end to the legislature’s hateful attack on Oklahoma’s transgender community. This attempt to use religion to discriminate would have cost the state millions during an already debilitating financial crisis. However, the true cost of this proposed legislation would not have been measured in dollars, but by the loss of dignity, hope, and in too many cases the loss of lives of transgender Oklahomans. We must remain vigilant to ensure that this measure and others like it never become law in Oklahoma. It is very likely that during this or the next legislative session, narrow-minded political expediency will give birth to more hateful legislation forged in fear and ignorance. Rest assured, the ACLU of Oklahoma stands ready to join our partner organizations and allies in protecting the rights of transgender Oklahomans from future political attacks whenever and wherever they occur."