Florida Lawmaker: Fine or Jail Trans People for Using the 'Wrong' Bathroom
A proposed bill Florida aims to make it a crime for transgender people to use public facilities, including bathrooms and dressing rooms, that accord with their affirmed gender, reports the Miami Herald.
House Bill 583, introduced by Republican Rep. Frank Artiles on February 4, would make it so that any trans citizen caught using a single-sex restroom that does not match the gender they were assigned at birth would be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail. The law would also make whoever owned the establishment where a trans person uses the restroom open 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 December 2 ordinance that banned discrimination based on gender identity and expression in public facilities throughout Miami-Dade County, notes the 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 eys of the beholder."
Several Florida representatives also came out strongly against the bill. "I am outraged to hear that a colleague in the Florida House of Representatives has filed a bill that would discriminate against our fellow Floridians," Rep. Janet Cruz said in a satement. "A bill labeling members of our transgender community as criminals for living their lives is an abomination and an embarassment."
Rep. David Richardson added that, "This exteme bill would take Florida in the wrong direction" by forcing employers to discriminate against both their clients and employees, thereby dampening the economy and undoing the positive effects of the nondiscrimination ordinance.
HB 583 will be voted on when the Flordia Legislature goes back into session on March 3.