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North Dakota Governor Signs Bill That Outs Transgender Students

North Dakota Governor Signs Bill That Outs Transgender Students

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum
Via Facebook

The legislation, which takes effect immediately, also restricts restroom use and allows teachers to ignore students' chosen pronouns.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has signed more anti-transgender bills into law — including requiring outing of trans students to their parents, restricting school restroom use, and allowing teachers to ignore students’ chosen pronouns.

Burgum, a Republican, signed the bills Monday. Last month he had OK’d legislation making it a crime to provide gender-affirming care to trans youth, and he has also signed bills barring trans girls and women from competing on female school sports teams.

House Bill 1522, which goes into effect immediately, says teachers in public schools cannot “withhold or conceal information about a student’s transgender status from the student’s parent or legal guardian.” It also says schools must not allow students to use restrooms that are not consistent with their “biological sex,” although they may make separate accommodations for trans students with parental permission, and that school districts cannot adopt policies mandating or prohibiting the use of students’ chosen pronouns.

Burgum had vetoed an earlier bill that would have barred public school teachers and other school staffers from using students’ preferred pronouns unless they have parental permission. It additionally would have prohibited government agencies from requiring workers to acknowledge transgender colleagues’ pronoun use and banned classroom instruction on “expressed gender.” Legislators tried but failed to override his veto.

“House Bill 1522 largely codifies existing practices while reaffirming the First Amendment right to free speech, requiring restroom accommodations, balancing the rights and interests of students, parents and teachers, and not including the concerning language from the previously vetoed and sustained SB 2231,” Burgum said in a statement Monday, according to North Dakota publication InForum.

HB 1522’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Scott Dyk, “caused a stir in January when he claimed without evidence that a Williston high school football team beat up a transgender student who had used a girls’ bathroom,” InForum reports. “Williston school officials said the claim was false and demanded Dyk apologize and retract his comment. The lawmaker refused to back off his statement.”

Burgum signed two other anti-trans bills into law Monday, and they will go into effect in August. HB 1474 “will define ‘male’ and ‘female’ in state law as being based on one's sex at birth,” InForum explains. HB 1297, will prohibit gender changes on birth records “due to a gender identity change,” as the legislation puts it, unless there was a mistake in data entry or if “the sex of the individual was changed with anatomically correct genitalia for the identified sex as certified by a medical provider.”

The American Civil Liberties Union’s North Dakota affiliate quickly condemned HB 1522. “It doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s rights to share spaces with those who are different,” Cody Schuler, ACLU of North Dakota advocacy manager, said in a press release. “Like previous efforts to expel people of color, people with disabilities, and others from communal spaces, these arguments for privacy and safety just mask a fear of difference.

“By signing House Bill 1522, Gov. Burgum is forcing transgender students to make the impossible decision of breaking the law or revealing their private medical information – not to mention the obvious risk of harassment and violence that comes with forcing transgender students into the facilitates that do not match their gender identity. It is quite clear whose privacy and very lives are really at risk now that House Bill 1522 is law.

“Additionally, mandatory outing of a student’s trans identity violates their privacy rights at school — particularly for trans youth who cannot be safe at home. And creating a supportive working and learning environment also requires treating people with dignity and respect, including — at a minimum — calling them by the name and pronouns they want to use. These are both unlawful and discriminatory practices.

“The fight for trans rights is not about ‘special rights’ — it’s about fundamental rights. It’s about fairness and equality for all.”

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