OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Gov.
Bill Haslam is proposing new protections for trans people living in the state.
In a bill released Monday, the governor calls on Oklahoma schools to be open for transgender students, and for students to be allowed to use restrooms that match their gender identity.
Haslam is the first governor in the country to sign the measure, which is a major step toward opening up public schools in the US.
The bill also requires that schools provide “safe, appropriate, and nondiscriminatory treatment” for transgender people.
The bill was introduced by Haslam and state Rep. Ryan Stenberg, a Republican, and was approved by the state House in January.
It now moves to the Senate, where lawmakers are debating the measure.
The proposal comes as schools across the US face an onslaught of lawsuits seeking to block transgender students from using the bathrooms and locker rooms that match the gender with which they identify.
A federal judge in Texas issued a preliminary injunction against the school districts that administer the Trump administration’s directive that schools allow trans students to use the bathrooms that correspond to their gender.
The Trump administration has asked a federal appeals court to take up the case.
More than 1,000 lawsuits were filed in the first half of this year, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the American Civil Liberties Union has warned that the Trump directive is already having a “chilling effect” on access to education.
In the statehouse bill, Haslam says the new rules should be the first step toward ensuring that all people have access to equal rights in school.
The new rules also provide “a pathway to ensure that schools remain open to all students, regardless of their sexual identity or gender identity,” he says in the legislation.
In 2017, more than 2,100 trans students in Oklahoma sued to force their school districts to allow them to use their preferred gender marker on official documents, and a federal judge rejected their efforts.
Hasler said in a statement that the bill is about protecting trans people and protecting children from discrimination.
“The passage of this bill would make Oklahoma the first state in the nation to allow all students in our public schools to use gender-neutral bathrooms and facilities,” he said.
“It would allow all kids to enjoy the dignity and privacy of using the facilities that match where they were born, as long as the facilities meet the same safety and privacy standards as any other public restroom in our state.”