Gender Identity and Bathroom Bill Filed in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.-  Arkansas is joining the ranks of fourteen other states that have pre-filed or introduced bills in the 2017 legislative session that would restrict access to public restrooms, locker rooms, or other gender specific facilities. 

The shell bill was filed Tuesday by Republican Senators Greg Standridge and Gary Stubblefield.  The only information it included was that it's an act concerning gender identity and bathroom privileges. 

Senator Standridge said in a brief phone conversation, they are "not ready to reveal everything that's in the bill at this time." 

Montine McNulty, Executive Director of Arkansas Hospitality Association, says the bill is concerning.  "Tourism is a 7.2 billion dollar industry in Arkansas and this could be damaging economically to the state. 

McNulty says the fallout it's caused in other states, especially North Carolina is not something she'd like to see here in Arkansas. "It can be a barrier to visiting here and we just don't want any barriers."

Lawmakers decided against bringing it up during last year's fiscal session.  At that time supporters called it a vital piece of legislation. 

"Women and girls ought to feel safe when they go into the restroom," says Jerry Cox, Executive Director of Family Council.

The bill may face opposition from Governor Asa Hutchinson who released a statement Tuesday.

"I have consistently said that there is no need for a North Carolina type bathroom bill in Arkansas.  It is unclear as to the specifics of the proposed legislation but if it is similar to North Carolina's, I view the bill as unnecessary and potentially harmful." 

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