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North Dakota Bill Targets Nonexistent Trend of Students Identifying as Animals

North Dakota Bill Targets Nonexistent Trend of Students Identifying as Animals

Students and cat

Six Republican representatives have introduced the bill as an "emergency measure."

Some North Dakota legislators appear to have bought into the conspiracy theory that some young people are identifying as nonhumans.

Six Republican lawmakers have proposed House Bill 1522, which is designed primarily to ban accommodations for transgender students in restrooms or pronoun usage but includes this language: “A board of a school district, a public or private school, or a teacher in a public or private school may not … Adopt a policy establishing or providing a place, facility, school program, or accommodation that caters to a student’s perception of being any animal species other than human." The two-page bill is labeled an “emergency measure.” It was introduced last Wednesday.

Certain conservative Republicans have embraced the myth that schools are providing litter boxes as accommodations for children who identify as cats. An NBC News investigation and others have found no truth to this.

Nonetheless, one of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Lori VanWinkle, told NBC via email,“Yes we have people who would like to claim themselves as animals such as cats and dogs.”

The bill would allow parents and guardians to sue over violation of any of the provisions — the trans-exclusionary ones and the "animal species" one. If successful, they would be eligible for damages of up to $500,000.

A rash of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, much of it specifically targeting trans youth, has been introduced around the nation this year — 202 bills so far, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. In North Dakota, there is another anti-trans "bathroom bill" pending, plus bills aimed at barring trans girls and women from female sports in schools and colleges, banning books, banning gender-affirming health care for minors, and changing rules regarding conversion therapy.

The North Dakota House last week approved legislation classifying drag shows as adult entertainment and restricting where they could be staged; it awaits action in the Senate. The previous week, the Senate rejected a bill that would have imposed fines for using a pronoun about oneself or another that differs from the gender the person was assigned at birth.

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