A NEW LAW: Sen. Missy Irvin proposes legislation to make people who use the wrong restroom a sex criminal.
Word has been bubbling that a Republican senator couldn't let the special session pass without a North Carolina-topping show on bathrooms and transgender people.
An early report indicated that, at first blush, Sen.Missy Irvin
would win the race to the bottom. A reliable source reported having seen an amendment Irvin reportedly had drafted for a minor bill aimed at clearing up a problem in a sexual indecency law (a Supreme Court ruling says the language doesn't currently apply to guardians of children). The amendment, by the source's account, says anyone who is caught in a bathroom
doesn't match their birth certificate will be charged as a sex offender.
The filing is expected tomorrow, by this account. She has not responded to e-mail questions.
UPDATE: Sen. Jim Hendren,
a Republican, casts doubt on the source of this report in a Twitter post. A second source weighs in and says the amendment may be the work not primarily of Irvin, but of Sen.Jeremy Hutchinson,
who chairs Judiciary and who is the author of the cleanup bill. As filed, however, his bill on sexual indecency doesn't include an amendment on restrooms. Though one source said Hutchinson had a hand in what was afoot, I finally reached Hutchinson. He said: "I will not be amending my bill." Beyond that, he wouldn't comment.
Other sources say, however, that Irvin told other legislators late in the afternoon today that she wanted to file a bill. Hutchinson gets involved only to the extent that she would use the existence of Hutchinson's bill to claim her bill was germane. But since it can't be filed until Thursday, after the filing deadline, it will require a two-thirds vote for introduction. I've been told the names of several willing House sponsors.
A key factor, and I think it is reflected in Jim Hendren's comment on Twitter: Gov. Asa Hutchinson
does NOT want this issue to come up in this short special session and has made that known. I think his position is more a matter of tactics and appearances than where his heart might be on the issue. It is powerful among voters in Arkansas, most agree. There will be time aplenty to patrol bathrooms in the 2017 legislative session.
Hutchinson already has his hands full on highways. And there are some interesting wrinkles in the fine print of legislation introduced today. Hutchinson, for example, is taking control of the Governor's Mansion Commission
and giving himself authority to boot any members he inherited. New governors often have tension with holdovers on the Commission that nominally oversees the state property. Hutchinson's amendment will increase the governor's control in other ways. He's also planning to do away with the state Building Authority Council that oversees leasing of buildings for state agencies to make it solely a function of the Department of Finance and Administration. And I'm still waiting for details on that bill to give Nucor, and perhaps a project in Sen. Ron Caldwell's district, an exemption from building codes. Sounds like local legislation and not exactly safety-conscious to me.
But that stuff is just garden variety politics. Irvin's idea is lunacy. There is a procedure by which birth certificate genders may be changed, but it is a long road for people with gender dysphoria. Some make the transition without birth certificate changes and live — not always happily — with their gender and generally try to avoid the many in Arkansas who want to discriminate against them or, worse, do violence
But there is so much more wrong with this. Already the bathroom vigilantes are at work — demanding proof of gender from a boyish woman who tried to use the Capitol women's room; a challenge to a woman who'd shaved her hair to provide hair to cancer victims. A Fayetteville alderman challenged a coffee shop worker for not looking sufficiently feminine. Unspeakable cruelty abounds and grows with the encouragement of Republican demagogues, including Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and others.
The worst thing is that the amendment would reinforce the blatant lie that transgender people are using restrooms that comport with their gender identity to prey on children of that gender.
If the bill is introduced, the toilet terrorists of the Republican Party
will be poised to etch every roll call in the public record. Should this evildoing come to pass, I offer up only one prayer to whatever God that made me: Let me be in Verizon Arena when a long line builds at the women's room and Missy or some of her like-thinking pals get a guy to stand watch while they use unoccupied stalls in the men's room. I'll be calling the PO-lice.
There's perversion in this issue, no doubt. But it's the perversion of human decency in leveraging fear over a tiny number of people who want nothing more to be left alone — and to have a private place to pee.
You think the TSA is intrusive? I guess we're going to have to post someone at every bathroom door with one of those mirrors security people use to look under cars for bombs.
It really isn't funny. But if you couldn't laugh, you'd have to cry. North Carolina will cheer. We'll take them off the front page.
NOTE: This post has undergone numerous revisions from the original.