The House Education Committee gave easy approval this morning to the legislation to prohibit transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports.

Sponsor Rep. Sonia Barker, as was the case with lead sponsor Sen. Missy Irvin, could produce no examples of transgender girls participating in sports even as they depicted the bill as a cure to unfair competition.

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Rep. Megan Godfrey opposed the legislation. As a former athlete and mother of a girl, she said she supported protecting women’s sports. But she said there was scant evidence of a general advantage for transgender girls; that the state and NCAA already have policies on such participation and that, while hate might not be intended, she could understand why transgender people feel hated and discriminated against by such “sweeping, exclusive” legislation. She said she’d have preferred an approach that developed a way to deal with special cases.

Lance Levar, an educator who works on school equity issues, also opposed the bill and the “circle of bullying” in the cluster of bills to discriminate against transgender children. He noted Rep. Mary Bentley “cherry-picking” a verse from the Old Testament to use the Bible as a “bludgeon” and legislation to deny children needed counseling. He said the bill quotes a researcher who says her work has been taken out of context who opposes such legislation. He said the science doesn’t support the bill. Rep. Gary Deffenbaugh took great offense that Levar would say the Bible would be used as a bludgeon.

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Barker insisted you can’t have a “biological male compete in girls sports and have fairness.” Rep. Richard Womack said it was bullying for federal rules to allow transgender girls to compete in girls’ athletics.

The bill not only prohibits transgender participation, it allows a student or school to sue if harmed somehow by the participation of a trangender student. What that harm might be wasn’t made clear.

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Irvin made a brief appearance to say she had a friend who referred her to a friend who was a transgender woman who supported her legislation. Rep. Gayla McKenzie said her constituents all supported the bill.

The bill passed on a voice vote.

UPDATE: By a vote of 32-1 (Stephanie Flower) the Senate approved the “conscience” bill that allows medical workers, facilities and insurance companies to refuse to provide services on account of moral objections. The hysteria over LGBT people is driving this, in addition to abortion and contraception.

CLARIFICATION: I learned after this post that the original 32-1 vote was expunged. The handful of decent senators who normally oppose such crap thought they were voting on concurrence in House amendments, generally routinely accepted. They got this vote expunged and the final vote was 25-6 

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Let the record reflect Sens. Chesterfield, Elliot, Ingram, Leding, Tucker and Flowers voted No. Larry Teague, the nominal Democrat who generally always vote for bad legislation, did not vote. Sen. Breanne Davis voted present, a rare dose of almost fresh air from a Republican.

 

The American Atheists offered comment:

Today, the civil rights watchdog American Atheists denounced passage (32-1) by the Arkansas Senate of SB 289, the most extreme denial of healthcare bill in the country. The bill, having already passed the House, will now go to Governor Asa Hutchinson’s desk.

Arkansas’s Denial of Healthcare bill allows doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, and even insurance companies and employers to cite religious beliefs to deny patients necessary care during a scheduled visit or an emergency.

“No one in the middle of a medical emergency should have to find out that a hospital will deny them care until it’s too late. Simply put, this bill prioritizes the religious beliefs of hospital administrators and employers over the lives of patients,” said Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy at American Atheists. “A person’s boss or insurance company should not be able to use personal religious beliefs to dictate the healthcare their families can or cannot receive.”

Arkansas’s Denial of Healthcare bill focuses on a problem that doesn’t exist. Between 2008 and 2016, the US Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights reported that only 10 complaints were filed by health care workers related to lack of accommodation for their religious beliefs.

“Arkansas lawmakers are putting religious special interests and a manufactured problem ahead of people’s lives without even considering the resulting suffering to Arkansans. It’s disturbing and deadly,” added Gill. “Time and time again, Arkansas lawmakers have shown their utter disregard for the lives of their constituents.”

In February, the legislature passed HB 1211, Arkansas’s church superspreader bill, and Governor Hutchinson signed it into law as Act 94. This dangerous legislation allows religious organizations, including schools and hospitals, to ignore public health restrictions, as well as civil or criminal laws that conflict with their beliefs, during this or any future emergency. SB 289 continues Arkansas lawmakers’ trend of putting religious beliefs ahead of healthcare.

“Governor Hutchinson should veto this deadly bill. If he does sign it into law, it will result in the deaths of Arkansans, and the blood will be on his hands,” said Nick Fish, president of American Atheists. “Lawmakers claim this bill is about conscience. Does Governor Hutchinson really want the deaths of Arkansans on his?”