by Max Brantley
In response, Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said:Add the Human Rights Campaign to those reacting unfavorably:
“This blatant and deliberate attack on over 15,000 transgender Arkansans would make it a crime—punishable by prison time and a lifetime criminal record—for transgender people to meet one of the most basic human needs and use the restroom. If this bill becomes law, transgender people, as well as anyone who is simply suspected of being transgender, will have to live in constant fear that they will be interrogated, arrested, or even prosecuted and put in prison every time they simply need to use the restroom.
“All around the country, legislators are looking at the disastrous impact North Carolina’s bathroom ban has had on its residents and its economy and saying, ‘We don’t want to do that to our state.’ Arkansans want their legislators to keep their eyes on the ball and focus on real problems facing real people. But the Arkansas House recklessly ignored the concerns that countless citizens and business leaders have raised, passing a bill that goes even further than North Carolina’s law by attaching serious, unconstitutional criminal penalties to the simple act of using the restroom. Now, the state Senate has the opportunity to push the brakes before this train wreck goes any further and defeat this harmful bill.”
Simply put, H.B. 1986 targets transgender Arkansans, just because of who they are. HRC Arkansas opposes any bill that singles out LGBTQ Arkansans for discrimination, and, laudably, Gov. Asa Hutchinson also opposes unnecessary anti-transgender legislation,” said Kendra R. Johnson, HRC Arkansas state director. “Millions of Americans live in cities and states with affirmative non-discrimination protections that ensure transgender people are able to access places of public accommodation — including theaters, grocery stores, coffee shops and gas stations — and those protections date back decades in many places. Arkansas should learn from the mistake North Carolina made with its disastrous HB2 law, and reject this discriminatory measure.”
H.B. 1986 is one of several egregious anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in Arkansas this legislative session. By making it illegal for transgender people to access restroom or locker facilities consistent with their identity, it opens them up to increased discrimination and harassment — as well as criminal consequences - as they simply go about their everyday lives. It also exposes Arkansas to tremendous risk of the kind of financial, legal, and political blowback that has beset North Carolina since the passage of HB2.