LITTLE ROCK — The Legislature should not pass a bill on transgender bathroom access, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday.
“We have no need in Arkansas” for such a bill, Hutchinson told reporters at the Capitol. “I’m going to try to make sure the Legislature does not pass a law that’s unneeded and could do potential harm.”
On Tuesday, Sen. Greg Standridge, R-Russellville, filed Senate Bill 346, which currently contains only one sentence: “The purpose of this act concerns gender and bathroom privileges.”
Standridge and Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, who has signed on as a co-sponsor, have said the details of the bill will be added later, but they have said they intend for the measure to require people to use public bathrooms that match the sex on their birth certificates.
A similar law in North Carolina has led to widespread criticism and boycotts by some businesses and entertainers. The NBA chose to relocate its All-Star game because of the law.
“The current bill is in shell form,” Hutchinson said of SB 346. “It has not been fleshed out. I have not seen any draft of that yet. But if we don’t need that in Arkansas, and if (it ends up as) a North Carolina-type bill, then I want the Legislature not to pass it.”
In May, then-President Barack Obama’s administration issued a guidance advising public schools to allow students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match the gender by which they identify. Hutchinson opposed the guidance at the time and said schools in Arkansas should disregard it.
In August, a federal judge issued an order blocking the guidance from being enforced. The guidance was not binding, but the Obama administration had threatened to deny federal funding to schools that did not follow it.
“The courts have struck down President Obama’s guidance, and just, I believe, yesterday new Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would not defend that position in court and directed the Department of Justice not to defend that,” Hutchinson said Thursday.
“I don’t think we in Arkansas, one, have a problem that cannot be addressed at the local school district level,” he said. “We don’t have a problem. There’s not any problem with Washington. I don’t think that we need to be dictating those very sensitive matters that are handled in our schools. We don’t need to be dictating those from the state Capitol.”
Standridge has said it is time for Arkansas “to take a stand” on the issue.