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Arkansas lawmakers pass Senate Bill 270 in Senate, heads to House

Senate Bill 270 passed through the Senate on Tuesday. It would criminalize those who knowingly stay inside restrooms with a child of the opposite biological sex.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Senate approved a controversial "bathroom bill" Tuesday afternoon as it now heads to the House.

Senate Bill 270 would expand the definition of sexual indecency with a child, making it a crime for an adult to knowingly stay in a bathroom, or changing room, with minors of their opposite biological sex.

The bill passed 19 to 7 as six Republican members did not vote.

Lawmakers said that Senate Bill 270 aims to "protect" privacy of those in designated restrooms. 

“What this bill seeks to do is if you have minors in the restroom, or in the dressing room, and stuff like that, then we're trying to prevent a violation of their privacy, I guess it would, so to speak, or exposing them to something they shouldn't be exposed to,” Sen. John Payton said in late February. 

Those in the state feel as though the bill could be hard to interpret and have a gray area, with it posing a potential threat of its own to transgender Arkansans. 

"Do I need to wear my identification papers or a special symbol for all to see when I enter the restroom to help people identify me and who I am," said Jessica Disney, a transgender woman who spoke in front of the Senate. "Should someone call the police on me, am I supposed to allow an officer of the law to sexually assault me and feel me up so that I can be allowed to use the restroom?”

This is one of two controversial bathroom bills that are currently being discussed by lawmakers.

The other bill, House Bill 1156 (HB1156), deals with transgender students and the bathrooms they can use in schools. 

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