An Illinois legislator is getting backlash after saying all-gender restrooms would drive him and other fathers to violence.
State Sen. Neil Anderson, who represents a western Illinois district, made the comment during debate last Thursday on a bill that would allow (but not require) businesses in the state to build multi-user all-gender restrooms — with privacy safeguards in place.
He said he would “beat the living p---” out of any “guy” who entered a restroom where his daughter was present, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “This is gonna cause violence, and it’s gonna cause violence from dads like me,” the Republican lawmaker added.
Fellow Republicans applauded, but Democrats were quick to condemn Anderson’s remarks. Sen. Mike Simmons, the first out gay state senator in Illinois, said they should be stricken from the official record.
“I wouldn’t want a single person in the state to read that record and think that anybody here would come after them if they would do something so mundane as to use the bathroom, a simple call of nature,” Simmons said.
Sen. Celina Villanueva, the bill’s sponsor, spoke about the need for the legislation. “We need this bill because we are surrounded by states in this country that are proactively prosecuting and persecuting people because of who they are,” she said, according to the Sun-Times. “And when you start talking over me, there’s a reason for that — because I’m hitting way too many trigger points.”
Senate Majority Leader Kim Lightford said those who oppose the bill “don’t understand that life is evolving.” She added, “It just sounds like to me that these are individuals who have problems with the LGBTQ community. And it sounds like these are the same people who act as if they don’t have family members or friends who are members of the LGBTQ community.”
AIDS Foundation Chicago, Equality Illinois, and Pride Action Tank issued a statement denouncing Anderson’s incendiary language. ‘This bill has been the subject of so much disinformation and violence, including threats of physical harm against Rep. [Katie] Stuart [the House sponsor] earlier this year and transphobic violence advocated by a state senator during debate Thursday,” it reads in part. “This violent language is appalling and emblematic of what trans and gender-expansive people experience in their daily lives. According to the US Trans Survey in 2015, 58% of trans respondents in Illinois avoided using a public restroom because they were afraid of confrontations or other problems they might experience. The violent language like that used by the state senator gives license to transphobic actors to harm trans people. Enough is enough.”
The bill ended up passing the Senate by a 35-20 vote, and the House OK’d it Friday, sending it to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his signature. It would let businesses install multi-user all-gender restrooms with floor-to-ceiling walls on stalls with functional locks. The stalls would contain only toilets, not urinals. The restrooms would include a diaper-changing station and a dispenser for menstrual products.
Illinois already requires that single-occupancy public restrooms be designated as all-gender.