OKLAHOMA CITY - A bill that would require people to use a bathroom consistent with their biological gender is being hailed as "protective" by its author but "discriminatory" by its opponents, namely the LGBT community.
Sen. Joseph Silk (R-Broken Bow) has filed Senate Bill 1014 in the interest of public safety after his constituents voiced fears of male pedophiles, for example, "identifying" as females and walking into the women's room.
Silk said his bill follows recent showdowns in cities like Houston over the issue.
"The fear is, if we do that and we say it's okay to be where you want to be, then we're not going to know who's hanging out in the women's restroom," Silk told NewsChannel 4 Friday. "So, if I send my 8-year-old daughter into the restroom at Pizza Hut, I really don't know who's in there."
Silk said it's an issue "the vast majority of Oklahomans" agree with him on.
He said schools are supporting his efforts, too.
"Do we want [bathrooms] to be a safe environment for young girls and young boys?" he said. "Or do we want them to be you don't really know what you're going to run into?"
But, Troy Stevenson, the executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, said the bill is nothing more than a discriminatory shot at the transgender community.
He said many transgender people feel uncomfortable using the restroom associated with their birth gender rather than the gender with which they identify.
"This is an attempt to stigmatize a group of people. It's not an attempt to control who goes to the bathroom. It's an attempt to stop the entire class of people from actually using the bathroom in public," he said. "They don't understand what they're doing is telling transgender men they have to use the women's room. This is men with full beards, bald heads that are going to be forced to jeopardize their safety by walking into the women's room."
Paula Sophia, a transgender woman, said she's not surprised the bill has been filed after similar debates around the country.
"It really is a message to say to transgender people: We don't want you out in public being who you are," she said. "What transgender people want to do is go where they need to go, do what they need to do and get out."
Sophia anticipates the bill would make using a public restroom incredibly uncomfortable after going through extensive counseling and medical treatment as part of her transition to a woman.
She also worries that employers would be reluctant to hire transgender people, because they don't want to deal with the "restroom issue."
The one-page bill leaves it to the State Board of Health to implement the measure, if passed.
A spokesman for the Oklahoma State Department of Health said the office will have no role until lawmakers vote on the measure and make it law.
Silk said there will not be any sort of "bathroom police" to catch people who violated the law.
But, violators could be reported.