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Hobbs vetoes bill to restrict transgender students from using public school bathrooms, locker rooms

Gov. Katie Hobbs added to her growing list of vetoes this week. Among them was a bill that would have kept transgender students in public schools from using spaces like bathrooms or changing rooms that match their gender identity.

Hobbs vetoed a similar bill in May. In a letter explaining that decision, she wrote that she “will veto every bill that aims to attack and harm children.” She repeated that sentiment in her latest veto letter.

Jeanne Woodbury with Equality Arizona said she hopes trans youth will be encouraged by Hobbs’ support, and that everyone can move on from bills she says intend to instigate fear.

“These bills never passed under Republican governors for the past decade,” Woodbury said. “So it’s something that is really important to take into consideration when we’re thinking about why these bills exist in the first place.”

The way the measure was presented, Woodbury said, was also concerning. Sponsored by Republican Sen. John Kavanagh (Fountain Hills), the bill was called the Arizona Accommodations for All Children Act.

“In many cases, this is presented as something that’s a favor to trans people,” she said. “And then trans people are presented as obstacles to progress and obstacles to basic standards. That is something I see [as] a very inverted narrative.”

Kavanagh issued a statementcalling Hobbs’ veto “disgraceful.”

Dani Logan with one-n-ten, a resource center for LGBT youth, said bills like SB 1040 can still have an effect even if they don’t become law.

“While we can feel that joy and relief, we can't really ignore that the proliferation of these hateful bills kind of sends a message to LGBTQ young folks that they’re not welcome, or that they feel unsafe in Arizona schools,” Logan said.

Woodbury said despite that message, she was glad to see Hobbs firmly support trans youth.

“For kids who have grown up their entire lives, hearing the message that they don’t belong,” Woodbury said, “now, they have someone above all of that telling them they do belong, and they have someone fighting for them.”

According to Logan, that fight has been wearing on LGBT young people. Some of the students one-n-ten supports have shared feelings of “disappointment” and “dismay,” she said.

“Thanks to organizations like GLSEN and their National School Climate Survey, we know that LGBTQ young folks in hostile school environments miss more days of school,” Logan said. “They have lower GPAs, lower self-esteem and higher levels of depression.”

For these students, Logan said, support is crucial.

“Conversely, we know that they thrive when they are at schools with inclusive curriculum, supportive educators, supportive school policies and (Gay-Straight Alliances),” she said.

Logan encouraged adults with a student in their life to take time to ask them about their needs, and to really listen.

Woodbury said listening to and valuing all youth, whether or not they are part of the LGBT community, is vital.

“The reality is that, setting anything about trans identity aside, we have policies in our schools, in our school districts that take privacy and safety in places like bathrooms and locker rooms really seriously,” Woodbury said.

For Woodbury, the strong message this veto sends is a source of hope.

“When we're celebrating and when we're happy, it's not just because it's a party or a parade,” she said. “It’s because we’re making a statement about our place in the world. Despite all of the hate directed toward us.”

Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.