Mississippi Republicans revive bill to regulate transgender bathroom use in schools

JACKSON, ma’am. — Mississippi’s Republican-led Legislature completed a last-ditch effort Thursday to revive a bill to regulate transgender people’s use of bathrooms, locker rooms and dormitories in public education buildings.

Lawmakers pushed the proposal through the House of Representatives and Senate in the final days of their four-month session after negotiations between the chambers on an earlier proposal broke down on Monday. Republicans said they received a flood of messages urging them to revive the bill.

“This is probably, for many of our constituents and for many people in this chamber, probably the most important bill that we’ve brought forward,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Dean Kirby, a Republican.

The legislation requires that all public educational institutions must equip their buildings with male and female toilets, changing rooms and dormitories.

People should only enter spaces that correspond to their gender assigned at birth, regardless of their appearance or the procedures they have undergone to confirm their gender identity. Those who violate the policy could be prosecuted, but schools, colleges and universities would be shielded from liability.

Democrats said the bill would endanger transgender people. They also criticized Republicans for spending time on the issue when other legislative priorities had not yet been completed.

“It just blows my mind that we have things that we can do to make the state of Mississippi better for all people, for all people, but we are so pumped about something that is national politics,” said Rep. Jeffrey Hulum III, a Democrat. “It’s not my job to criticize the way people live their lives.”

Republicans said they were standing up for female relatives on college campuses and pointed to several Republican women in red as they watched from the Senate gallery.

One of those women was Anja Baker, a member of the Mississippi Federation of Republican Women from the Jackson suburb of Rankin County. Baker said she works with social service providers and worried that women would be pushed out of the spaces they depend on.

“They have limited resources, and they need to protect their locations and resources for the women who need them, rather than getting caught up in a game of identity politics,” Baker said.

Advocacy groups sent her and other Republican women an email late Wednesday asking them to appear at the Capitol on Thursday. That came after an initial measure mandating single-sex spaces stalled, sparking a bitter back-and-forth among top lawmakers.

Just before a deadline Monday evening, the House of Representatives offered a plan that would allow people to file lawsuits seeking monetary damages if someone uses a restroom not assigned to his or her gender, said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brice Wiggins, a Republican . Wiggins said that made it an unacceptable “litigator’s bill.”

House Judiciary Chairman Joey Hood, also a Republican, said the Senate forced the House to accept a weaker proposal. The bill would allow people to file a lawsuit, but they would not be able to seek damages from any lawsuit. As a result, Hood and other House members said the bill they ultimately passed would likely not prevent people from entering spaces that do not correspond to their gender assigned at birth.

Hood said he hopes the Legislature will introduce legislation in 2025 with tougher penalties.

Another proposal failed this year and would have denied legal recognition of transgender people by writing into law that “there are only two genders and each individual is male or female.”

In 2021, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed legislation to ban transgender athletes from competing on girls’ or women’s sports teams. Last year, he signed a bill to ban gender-affirming hormones and surgery for anyone under the age of 18.

The Mississippi proposals were among several bills being considered in state legislatures across the country as Republicans seek to restrict transgender people’s access to gender-affirming care, restrooms and sports, among other things.


Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow him at @mikergoldberg.