A group of Nevada Assembly Republicans who broke rank and cast deciding votes against a bill that required transgender students to use school facilities corresponding to their biological sex said it was conservative ideals that motivated their decision.
Five Republicans joined Democrats in a 20-22 vote Tuesday to kill AB375 involving students’ use of bathrooms and locker rooms.
It would also have required schools to provide the “best available accommodation” for transgender students.
“I feel like these decisions need to be made by individual school districts,” said Republican Assemblywoman Robin Titus, who represents rural portions of Churchill and Lyon counties and voted against the bill.
Assembly members Derek Armstrong, Glenn Trowbridge, Pat Hickey and Melissa Woodbury also voted against the measure.
The bill drew criticism from Democrats and advocates who say it would open the door to discrimination against transgender students, who are already more likely to be bullied and attempt suicide than other youth.
The Democrats appealed to Republican sensibilities during the debate.
“I can think of no more of an intrusive bill, no more of a bill that flies in the face of small government than this bill,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson.
Woodbury said school districts should deal with the question of bathrooms for transgender students.
“I was not comfortable interjecting right in the middle of that process,” she said in a statement. “These decisions are best handled at the local level.”
Republican Assemblyman Chris Edwards spoke out during a floor debate with concerns about the cost of remodeling to comply with the bill then ended up voting in favor of the measure. The Mesquite Republican said the bill had serious issues, but he wanted to respect voters in his district that supported the measure.
Nevada was one of eight states reviewing similar legislation and joined Colorado and Kentucky as states that have voted down the measures, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Republican Assemblyman Ira Hansen, a vocal supporter of the measure, said it may be revived as a ballot measure.
“Two weeks ago this bill was dead,” he said. “Even though we were defeated today, we brought it to the attention of the state.”