The legislation defines the biological sex to be identified on a birth certificate or state issued identification card, like a driver’s license. It covers bathrooms in state, county and local government buildings as well as well as public schools, including colleges and universities.
Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project, said the law is very similar to North Carolina’s recently enacted legislation. That law caused a firestorm across the country earlier this year, and last month resulted in the Obama administration filing a federal lawsuit against the state to rescind millions of dollars in federal funding.
Federal courts and the US Department of Justice, Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Education have consistently found in favor of transgender students excluded from using bathrooms and other offerings from public entities based on their gender identity.
“It’s very serious,” Kaplan said, noting if the legislation were to be passed and signed into law its constitutionality would most certainly be challenged. He said he would also expect federal action against the state in such a situation as well.
Supporters of such bills across the country argue the legislation is necessary to protect the privacy of women and children. Kaplan said that is untrue.
“It does nothing to protect anyone’s privacy,” he said.
Kaplan noted that backlash to North Carolina’s law included economic impacts from businesses who withdrew developments and conferences. He indicated passage of this law in Michigan could impact “the economic well-being of our state.”
The House bill would also gut local human rights ordinance, like the one passed by the Lansing City Council in 2006, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression.
“It is unfortunate that members of the Michigan House are attempting to legislate a problem that does not exist,” said Amy Hunter, director of the ACLU’s Trangender Advocacy Project. “That this bill has been introduced reflects a basic misunderstanding of what gender identity is. The fact is that transgender women are women and transgender men are men, period. Barring trans people from using public restrooms and other facilities is the very definition of discrimination and would effectively exclude them from participating in public life.”
The House legislation is much broader than legislation introduced last week in the Senate. That legislation, from Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, would restrict the rights of transgender students in public schools. He said he the legislation was in response to draft guidance by the Michigan Department of Education and the State School Board to provide safe educational environments for LGBTQ students in Michigan.
The legislation was introduced late Thursday afternoon by Republican State Reps. Jim Runestad of White Lake, Thomas Hooker of Byron Center, Gary Howel of North Branch, Gary Glenn of Midland, Triston Cole of Mancelona, Lee Chatfield of Levering, Joel Johnson of Clare, Bruce Rendon of Lake City, Pat Somerville of New Baltimore, Tom Barrett of Potterville, Hank Vaupel of Fowlerville, Jim Tedder of Clarkston, Aaron Miller of Sturgis, Nancy Jenkins of Clayton, Ray Franz of Onekama, Ken Goike of Ray Township, Tim Kelly of Saginaw Township, Lana Theis Brighton, Phil Potvin Cadillac and Peter Lucido Shelby Township.