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As SAFER Act awaits action in Mississippi House, the Women’s Bill of Rights sits in the Senate

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

FILE – House Medicaid Committee Chairman Joey Hood, R-Ackerman, listens as committee members offer comment at the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. House lawmakers in Mississippi approved a bill Wednesday, March 13, 2024, that would define sex as binary, following the lead of Republican-controlled legislatures around the country aiming to restrict the legal recognition of transgender identities. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

  • Lawmakers look to define the two sexes and provide protections for single-sex spaces.

The Securing Areas for Females Effectively and Responsibly Act, otherwise known as the SAFER Act, is awaiting action by the Mississippi House of Representatives.

The bill, SB 2753, defines the sexes and how they can, or cannot, intermingle within single-sex spaces, such as restrooms, changing facilities and public student housing.

“This bill’s main purpose is to protect the safety and privacy of males and females,” State Senator Josh Harkins (R), the bill’s author, said while reading the legislation on the Senate floor.

In the bill, a person born with reproductive organs that would eventually produce eggs is designated as female, and those with organs that would eventually produce sperm are deemed male. 

“‘Sex,’ when used to classify a natural person, means the biological indication of male and female as observed or clinically verified at birth, without regard to an individual’s ‘gender identity’ or any other terms intended to convey a person’s psychological, chosen, or subjective experience or sense of self,” the bill states.

The legislation further states that there are only two sexes identified in the bill, male or female, and that intersex individuals, those born with both reproductive organs, are not defined as a third sex.

“The Legislature finds that females and males should be provided areas, including restrooms, changing facilities and single-sex educational housing spaces, for their exclusive use, respective to their sex, in order to maintain privacy and safety,” the bill reads.

While the measure outlines the use of single-sex facilities as being only for the designated sex, it does provide some exceptions. The allowable exceptions include when an adult is chaperoning a child younger than 12 to a restroom or similar facility, when first responders are entering that space for safety reasons or to render emergency aid, governmental employees who need access to an area as part of their job or contractual obligation when the space is unoccupied, janitorial or maintenance needs when the restroom or changing room is unoccupied, and if a restroom of one sex is out of order and is not occupied by another person.

In the instance of public student housing, opposite sexes can occupy the same space if they are assisting in moving, visiting residents, or “other authorized purposes.”

Violations of the Act would be handled by the Attorney General’s office. 

SB 2753 is similar to a bill that passed out of the Mississippi House of Representatives, HB 1607, otherwise known as the Women’s Bill of Rights, authored by State Rep. Dana McLean. Both bills define the sexes for use in state law as well as note restrictions on the use of facilities by a sex other than the one given at birth. 

READ MORE: Mississippi Women’s Bill of Rights passes in House defining biological sexes

After passing the Senate on March 13th by a vote of 40-12, SB 2753 was referred to the House Judiciary A Committee where it currently awaits action. State Rep. Joey Hood (R) chairs the House committee.

HB 1607, which passed the House floor by a vote of 82-30 on the same day, was referred to the Senate Judiciary A Committee where it also awaits consideration. State Senator Brice Wiggins (R) chairs the Senate Committee.

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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