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South Dakota senate approves transgender bathroom bill

[JURIST] South Dakota's state senate [official website] on Tuesday passed a bill which, if approved by the governor, will make South Dakota the first state to enact bans on opposite-sex bathroom and shower use in public schools. The Student Physical Privacy Act, which was approved [AP report] in a 20-7 vote, requires students to choose the bathroom they use based on their sex at birth. It would also require [Washington Times report] schools to provide a reasonable accommodation for transgender students such as a one-person bathroom. While supporters of the bill argue that it protects the privacy of students, opponents, including the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, have called the legislation "extreme and dangerous," saying it would create a separate but equal situation for transgender students. While Governor Dennis Dauggaard previously expressed support for the bill, has now said he will need to consider it further.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been a controversial issue in the US. In December a judge for the US District Court for the Central District of California ruled [JURIST report] that sexual discrimination is prohibited under a law that protects gender-based discrimination. In November President Barack Obama's expressed support [JURIST report] for legislation that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity through an amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In July 2014 Obama signed an executive order [text] barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity [JURIST report] but, despite pressure, did not include any exemptions for religious organizations. In November 2013 the US Senate approved [JURIST report] the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill outlawing workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, by a vote of 64 to 32, but it has made no progress in the House of Representatives.

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