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Arizona Republicans on Nonbinary People: Liken Them to Animals, 'It'

Kevin Payne and John Fillmore

Two Arizona legislators are facing ethics complaints after one likened identifying as nonbinary to identifying as a chicken and another referred to a nonbinary person as “it.”

State Reps. John Fillmore and Kevin Payne, both Republicans, made those remarks Wednesday at a House Government and Elections hearing on a bill that would bar the state and local governments from offering any gender options other than male or female on official documents, the Arizona Mirror reports. Male and female are the only options currently offered, so the bill is a preemptive move. Riley Behrens, a transgender man and community activist, filed the complaints with the House Ethics Committee.

Fillmore’s comments particularly shocked observers. “What’s going to happen when someday someone wakes up and they want to go to a far extreme and identify as a chicken or something, for crying out loud? Where do we draw the line?” Fillmore, who introduced the legislation, said in the meeting.

“It’s dehumanizing any trans or nonbinary person in their state,” Megan Mogan of Tucson, who testified at the hearing, told Phoenix TV station KPNX. Mogan, the mother of a nonbinary 15-year-old, also tweeted her reaction.

Democratic Rep. Kelli Butler objected to Fillmore’s remarks as well. “This is just incredibly upsetting to hear the bill sponsor using words to describe people. … It’s disturbing and upsetting,” she said, according to the Mirror. “This is about being a human being that respects other human beings, and everybody isn’t just like me, and that’s great.”

It appeared that Fillmore did not know the distinction between being transgender and being nonbinary; most trans people identify as either male or female. He used stereotypical scare tactics about trans people in public restrooms, saying “the gender dysfunction thing” allows “men to enter into the restrooms of the little girls and creates situations that I don’t think are beneficial to society and the nuclear family as a whole.”

Behrens’s ethics complaint says Fillmore’s conduct “compromises the character of himself, the integrity of the Arizona State House of Representatives, and shows a lack of respect for members of the LGBTQ+ community.”

The complaint against Payne came because of a comment he made while Mogan was testifying. “During the House Government and Elections Committee hearing on February 10, 2021, Representative Payne continuously disrupted public testimony and in a comment to himself, said ‘So it doesn’t know who it is?’ in reference to the child of one of the community members who testified virtually,” Behrens wrote in the complaint. “Referencing any person as ‘it’, particularly a child, is discriminatory and cannot be tolerated.”

Payne denied making the remark. “I spoke with Rep. Payne and wanted to share with you that he does not recall saying anything like what is alleged in the complaint, nor are such words by him heard in the committee hearing’s video,” House Republican spokesman Andrew Wilder told the Mirror.

Behrens responded, “I don’t hear Payne making those comments on tape, but I know what I heard.” He said he was sitting within 10 feet of Payne. Behrens’s complaints ask the Ethics Committee to investigate whether Payne and Fillmore “should be subject to censure and other disciplinary actions.”

Fillmore, for his part, issued a statement saying his remarks were distorted. “The complaint is entirely without merit, and it’s rather unfortunate that some opponents of the bill have unfairly and grossly mischaracterized my comments at Wednesday’s hearing,” he said. “I invite people to listen to my actual remarks, which do not remotely match the distorted version critics have alleged.”

See for yourself below.

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