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Republicans want separate showers for transgender students. Hobbs vetoed a similar bill last year

A bill that would require schools to have separate showers for transgender students so that other students aren't exposed to them is on the way to Gov. Katie Hobbs' desk after the Senate gave it final approval on Wednesday.

The measure sponsored by Sen. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) would require that schools provide a single-occupancy shower room or a shower set aside for employees to anyone requesting one in writing.

Despite the proposed law making no mention of transgender students showering with students of the sex they identify with, Kavanagh made clear it was aimed at those students. He called Senate Bill 1182 a "watered-down" version of a bill Hobbs vetoed last year that contained similar provisions.

That bill also required that K-12 public schools ensure that transgender students are not allowed to share hotel rooms or other accommodations with students not of their biological sex while on overnight trips.

Kavanagh said showers are the location which subjects people to the most embarrassment and discomfort for students if they are required to shower with someone of the opposite biological sex.

"It is inappropriate for a 15-year-old female high school co-ed to have to stand next to a 20-year-old biological male who identifies as female in the same shower," Kavanagh said during the Senate vote.

He said providing transgender students with an alternate shower location is a reasonable accommodation.

"I think almost everybody thinks is totally inappropriate for that type of a mixing of genders wile naked in a school facility," Kavanagh said. "So I'm hoping that we can pass this bill out and the governor will understand that in this most extreme situation we need to protect our children."

The bill passed on a 16-14 vote. All Senate Democrats opposed the bill, with Minority Leader Mitzi Epstein (D-Tempe) calling it unnecessary.

"The scenario just presented is not something that happens, and there are plenty of school policymakers and school advisory boards that would not let that happen," Epstein said. "That is just something that was made up by somebody and that's why I'm voting no."

Senate President Warren Petersen (R-Queen Creek) disputed the assertion that such a situation would never occur.

"This has happened,"  Petersen said. "This is absolutely mind-boggling that anybody thinks a biological male should be in a shower with a biological female in our schools."

Similar comments were made during House debate on Kavanagh’s bill. The lower chamber approved the measure on a 31-28 party-line vote early this month.

Opponents said a situation where a transgender person showering with students who are of a different biological sex doesn't transpire. They also noted that schools would have no way to comply with the measure, since most gym locker rooms have no alternatives to communal showering facilities.

"We do not have private showers in the school that I teach at, nor have I ever seen private showers in a public school," Rep. Nancy Gutierrez (D-Tucson) said during House debate on the measure. She also said there also are no private shower facilities for staff.

Other House Democrats noted that many students don’t shower after P.E. classes anyway, for various reason, including the lack of privacy.

Kavanagh said in an earlier interview that schools could come up with a workaround, such as designating times for certain students to use the showers.

Hobbs will have until the end of next week to decide whether to sign or veto Kavanagh's bill. But based on what she said when she vetoed the similar Kavanagh bill last year, its fate is likely sealed.

The Democratic governor called last year's measure "yet another discriminatory bill aimed at LGBTQ+ youth passed by the majority at the state Legislature,"  in her veto letter.

"As I said ... I will veto every bill that aims to attack and harm children," her letter said.