A bill that would make it a crime for a transgender person to remain in a bathroom or a changing facility while a minor is present cleared the Senate on Tuesday.

This was the second time the Senate considered Senate Bill 270. Sen. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock) pointed out a missing line in the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 27, but sponsor Sen. John Payton (R-Wilburn) convinced the committee to pass it anyway on the promise that he’d fix the bill in House committee, but after Tucker forcefully argued that it was a dereliction of the Senate’s duty to pass through bills with an obvious technical flaw, Payton agreed to send the bill back to committee.

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Tucker echoed some of the points he raised with the state prosecutor coordinator when the bill was heard by the committee the second time: This bill would be unique among crimes in Arkansas in that a physical trait of a person’s body would be an element of the crime. There’s also no other law where a person could be charged with a crime for entering public property.

Sen. Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville) noted that left-handed people were once seen as deviants. The abuse conservatives heap on transgender people, who have always existed, Leding noted, will one day be recognized as just as ridiculous as the persecution of people who favor their left hand sounds today.

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Sen. Joshua Bryant (R-Rogers), who opened by describing himself as a “knuckle-dragging conservative,” said his concerns about the bill had woken him up early in the morning. In his long speech, he asked his conservative colleagues to imagine someone who had a concealed carry handgun and kept it concealed and wasn’t threatening anyone being charged with armed robbery just for being in a private business where guns weren’t allowed. He echoed Tucker, noting that we already have laws prohibiting voyeurism and indecent exposure. He said there was a time to be a politician and a time to be a statesman. He implored his colleagues to be statesmen.

They didn’t heed his call, though the vote was close. Needing 18 votes to pass, the bill got 19 for, with 7 against, 6 not voting and 1 voting present (not voting and present count as no).

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