Proposed AZ Law Adds More Bias Toward Trans People

Toni D'orsay, a powerful trans activist in the state of Arizona, spoke out on how the law would impact trans individuals, specifically.

BY Parker Marie Molloy

February 25 2014 7:41 PM ET

Toni D'orsay

As Governor Jan Brewer considers whether or not to sign SB 1062, legislation that would legalize discrimination against LGBT individuals, it has become clear that the law would be uniquely detrimental to transgender Arizonans, due to the added impact of the state's existing record on transgender people.

The state has drawn criticism in recent years for some of the more hard-line bills that have passed, and nearly passed, through the legislature. For example, in 2011, Gov. Brewer signed SB 1070 into law, an anti-immigration bill that would subject those suspected of being in the country illegally to provide ID on demand. The Supreme Court later intervened, removing a number of the harsher provisions of the law. Last year, a bill was introduced that would have effectively criminalized the use of bathrooms by transgender individuals, classifying it as a class A misdemeanor.

Toni D'orsay, Arizona resident and executive director of This Is HOW, an organization focused on trans lives, says the state has appeared to become a hostile environment for trans people.

"The trans community is the most visible and most directly impacted segment of the intentionally targeted community," D'orsay said. "In practice, this is a continuation of the fight from last year against the lives of trans people."

Regarding the statement that this bill actually impacts trans individuals on a greater scale than it would impact gay, lesbian, or bisexual individuals, D'orsay highlights the difference between knowing someone is gay in comparison to knowing that they're transgender, alluding to the fact that people often aren't visibly gay, while other people may be visibly trans.

"How is one going to know someone is 'gay?' Unless they have a personal knowledge of the person, they are going to go after what they think of as gay, and all too often that means, in the minds of the general public, trans people, just as it did in NYC in the late 1960's," D'orsay said, referencing the Stonewall riots, one of the early catalysts in the LGBT movement, in which trans people played a key role.

D'orsay highlights ties between SB 1062 author State Senator Steve Yarbrough and Representative John Kavanagh, author of the bill that would have criminalized trans bathroom usage.

"The bill's author is a close freind with last year's antitrans bill author, and he is on public record as saying this bill is intended to allow discrimination against gay and lesbian people, and what he means is people who are visibly different from the norm," D'orsay said, adding that this proposed law seems to be a way to especially discriminate against trans people after Phoenix passed a non-discrimination ordinance last year, which explicitly included trans people.

"As one of the trans leaders in the state, I can say that the antagonism against our lives as pushed by right wing groups like the Center for Arizona Policy and its leader, Cathi Herrod, are behind the bill," D'orsay said. "Most of the legislature is not particular antitrans, it is a group of those from the right who represent very affluent, very pale districts that have the problem."

Whether or not Gov. Brewer will sign the bill remains to be seen, though she has stated that she plans to "do the right thing." She vetoed similar legislation last year.

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