Aug Sept 2016
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The Advocate

Florida's Trans Bathroom Bill Dies

Florida's Trans Bathroom Bill Dies

The office of Florida State Rep. Frank Artiles confirms his controversial bill, aimed to punish anyone who uses a public bathroom that doesn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth, is dead — and cannot be revived, as this legislative session is over.

Nadine Smith, co-founder and CEO of Equality Florida, which led the grassroots coalition to stop the transphobic and discriminatory proposal, first broke the news to The Advocate.

“We joined with other states in rejecting this hostile bill,” said Smith. “The silver lining in Florida has been the transgender community becoming more visible in Tallahassee.”

The offices of Artiles and co-sponsor State Rep. Dennis Baxley confirmed to The Advocate the bills in both the House and the Florida Senate died in committee. The House members were said to be not available for comment.

HB 583, the “Single-Sex Public Facilities” bill, or as it was dubbed, Florida’s “Bathroom Bill,” would have made it illegal for any trans citizen to use a single-sex restroom that does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. Such a violation would result in a first-degree misdemeanor charge, punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail. The law would also open the owner of any establishment where a trans person uses the restroom to lawsuits from other patrons, as they would be "liable in a civil action to any person who is lawfully using the same single-sex public facility."

Artiles filed the bill in response to a recent ordinance that banned discrimination based on gender identity and expression in public facilities throughout Miami-Dade County, noted the Miami Herald. The lawmaker explained his proposed bill as a way to ensure "public safety," rather than a means to criminalize trans citizens.

"It's not that the transgender or the gender identity community is dangerous by any means," he explained, "but [the ordinance] creates a giant loophole for criminals, sexual predators to walk into a shower, a woman's locker room under the cover of law."

He then went on to explain his vision of what some trans people using public facilities looks like, stating to the Herald, "A man such as myself can walk into the bathroom at L.A. Fitness while women are taking showers, changing, and simply walk in there. Someone can say, 'What are you doing there?' Under the ordinance, I don't have to respond. It's a subjective. If I feel like a woman that day, I can be allowed to be in that locker room. I don't know about you, but I find that disturbing."

Artiles' argument echoes one often decried by trans advocates as inflammatory and baseless, and which has seen recent debates in Arizona, Utah, Minnesota, and Kentucky: That trans people, and especially trans women, are predatory or threaten the safety of others in public bathrooms. As many advocates have pointed out, it is actually trans people who are more likely to be harassed or physically attacked in public facilities.

Florida LGBT rights advocates reacted strongly to the bill, including the ACLU of Florida. "This 'show your papers to pee bill' denigrates both transgender and non-transgender people alike," Daniel Tilley, the group's LGBT rights staff attorney told the Herald. "In addition to dehumanizing transgender people in particular, it invites humiliation and harassment of anyone who is not considered sufficiently feminine or masculine in the eyes of the beholder."

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