Controversial Va. school bathroom bill sparks debate

A Virginia lawmaker clarified his "bathroom" bill.

FAIRFAX, VA – The Virginia House of Delegates will debate the question of who can use which bathrooms in schools and other public buildings in its current session, thanks to a controversial bill submitted by a Republican lawmaker from Stafford County.

HB 663 requires that restrooms in schools and public buildings be used only by members of the corresponding anatomical sex. Anyone caught using the "wrong" restroom would be subject to a $50 fine.

The bill touched off immediate controversy, with critics claiming it would require administrators at schools to check the sex of boys and girls who might present as other genders or ask to use other restrooms, and would have transgender people everywhere looking over their shoulders for the bathroom police.

Republican Delegate Mark Cole defended the bill he wrote in an interview with WUSA9.

"When I started my legislative career fifteen years ago, I never would have thought that I would be carrying a bill to say boys should use the boys room and girls should use the girls room," Cole said. "That's always been common sense, but, unfortunately, it seems like in some sectors of our society, common sense is at a shortage."

MORE: Read the full bill

Cole called the attacks against his legislation  a "shrill reaction and an effort to kill the bill." He said there would be no genital inspections; and that any enforcement of the law would be complaint-based.

Cole said the legislation grew out of a Stafford County case of a transgender student identifying as a girl using a girls' restroom at an elementary school last spring.

"The Stafford school board requested guidance from the state because schools are being sued over the issue, and that's another goal of the legislation is to shield the schools from lawsuits around this issue," Cole said. "If they want to sue somebody, let them sue the state, not individual schools."

A meeting discussing adding transgender students to the Fairfax County school district's nondiscrimination policy last spring touched off a heated debate about bathroom use.

Robert Rigby, president of FCPS Pride and an advocate for transgender students called the bill wholly unnecessary.

"The idea of having bathroom users accuse other bathroom users of violating some sort of gender policy, some sort of anatomical gender policy, brings a powerful force of intolerance into our schools," Rigby said. "I think some, few, very conservative lawmakers are trying to make some publicity, and make some name for themselves by imposing and attacking the LBGT community." 

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Editor's note: An earlier version of this story identified the child at the center of the Stafford County case as a boy. The child is a transgender student identifying as a girl. 


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