Oklahoma legislators introduced a measure on Thursday that is at once vexingly bizarre and wonderfully clarifying. The bill, SB 1619, would declare a “State of Emergency” in Oklahoma in response to the Obama administration’s directive barring public schools from discriminating against trans students.
Been there, done that, you might think—but wait: The precise mechanism by which the bill legalizes anti-trans discrimination is unusually inventive. Rather than explicitly excluding trans students from school bathrooms, SB 1619 grants non-trans students a right to use trans-free bathrooms. The reason? Non-trans students may have “sincerely held religious beliefs” that using the same bathroom as a trans person violates their religion. And accommodating these beliefs is necessary “for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety.”
This curious bill is notable for two reasons. First, it states that religious students may not be accommodated with trans-free single-occupancy bathrooms. That means SB 1619’s proposed regime would require bathrooms segregated not just on the basis of sex, but also on the basis of trans identity. Schools would really be required to have four bathrooms: Men’s (No Trans Men Allowed), Women’s (No Trans Women Allowed), Trans Men’s, and Trans Women’s.
Second, SB 1619 is a very explicit confirmation of the growing consensus that opposition to trans bathroom use is all about religion—not earnest terror over the entirely made-up bathroom predator myth. A statement by Republican Rep. John Bennett, who authored a related resolution calling for Obama’s impeachment over the trans directive, furthers that conclusion: Bennett described the directive as “biblically wrong,” throwing out the bathroom predator pretext and openly acknowledging the religious roots of his anti-trans animus.
Bennett’s resolution, along with his colleagues’ absurd proposals, may be offensive and inane and discriminatory. But at least these lawmakers are conceding what so many anti-trans activists strive to keep secret: All this anger, all this loathing, all this cowardice, this pseudoscientific argle-bargle—it’s about religion and very little else.