Elvis impersonator lawmaker targets Indiana transgender students with ‘bathroom bill’
Rep. Bruce Borders (R), an Indiana state lawmaker known for his Elvis Presley impersonation has introduced a bill targeting transgender students for discrimination.
House Bill 1525 mirrors “bathroom bills” that have been proposed in various states in recent years. If passed, it would dictate that students in Indiana’s public and charter schools could only use restrooms that match their “biological sex,” which the bill clarifies would be “determined by an individual’s chromosomes and identified at birth by the individual’s anatomy.”
Similar to a bill also introduced this year in South Dakota, Borders’ bill would likewise prohibit transgender students from participating in any athletic programs in accordance with their gender identity.
As advocates have pointed out in previous fights over legislation targeting transgender students, such mandated discrimination would endanger their mental health and severely limit their access to education.
Moreover, Borders’ bill directly violates a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which tossed out a Wisconsin school’s discriminatory policies. The trans student in that case, Ash Whitaker, was prohibited from using the boys’ restrooms, forced instead to use single-stall restrooms so far from his classes that he couldn’t actually access it and still get to class on time.
“[H]e was faced with the unenviable choice,” the Court wrote, “between using a bathroom that would further stigmatize him and cause him to miss class time, or avoid use of the bathroom altogether at the expense of his health.”
The Court, which presides over Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, rejected the arguments that transgender people pose any threat when they use restrooms. That appears to be exactly the reasoning behind Borders’ new bill.
The Indiana Liberty Coalition, a conservative advocacy organization, praised Borders this week for introducing the legislation. “Today, Rep. Borders stood up for Hoosier children in the classroom, student privacy and Hoosier families,” the group proclaimed.
While Borders has not spoken publicly about his new bill, he has previously attempted to discriminate against transgender people. In 2017, he introduced a different bill that would have prohibited transgender people from updating their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity. Very few states have such strict limitations on birth certificate updates, and a federal court overturned one of those laws in Idaho last year. Only Kansas, Ohio, and Tennessee still prohibit updates, and legal challenges are already underway in Kansas.
Borders’ bill was quashed in committee by other Republican lawmakers. He claimed that he attempted to erase transgender people’s identities because, “I just respect accuracy in all legal records.”
Borders also previously opposed LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, expressing concern that they might infringe on people’s religious beliefs.
Indiana is infamous for passing a “religious freedom” bill in 2015, signed into law by then-Gov. Mike Pence (R), that gave business owners a license to discriminate against LGBTQ customers.
After national outcry, lawmakers adjusted the bill to make sure it couldn’t be used to justify discrimination. The state has since tried to rehabilitate its bigoted reputation, but that hasn’t stopped conservative lawmakers from introducing other discriminatory bills.
Borders is known throughout the state for his Elvis impersonation, which he has been performing for over 40 years.
He said recently he may propose a resolution this year honoring Elvis, who performed his last concert before his death in Indiana.