A proposed bill that would bar people from using restrooms that align with their gender identities has cleared another hurdle.
After hearing nearly two hours of public comment overwhelmingly in opposition to the bill, the Government Operations Subcommittee on March 17 voted to approve HB 583 which will send the controversial legislation to its third committee hearing.
Republican State Rep. Frank Artiles of Miami, who filed the “Single-Sex Public Facilities” Bill Feb. 7, presented the bill to the committee, which immediately approved an amendment that would allow reporters to enter locker rooms designated for either sex.
“My bill is not attacking transgenders, bisexuals, homosexuals or any sexual orientation,” said Artiles, when asked how the bill stops criminal acts.
He told the committee the bill would be “self-enforcing” and just like before the last committee hearing, emphasized that the bill is an attempt to bring uniformity to the state, correcting what he called “overly broad” language in a Miami Dade Human Rights Ordinance.
More than 70 public speakers asked for time. Of those who spoke, just nine were in favor of the bill. Many who spoke in opposition pointed out that by definition the bill creates the problems it purports to protect against, by forcing transitioning people who are biologically women but look like men to use the women’s restroom.
“However you feel about transgender people, my gender marker on my license is female,” said Will Ryan, a biological female who is transitioning to male and presents as very traditionally male, facial hair and all. “If you don’t want men in the restroom, this is not a law to enact.”
Some speakers expressed concern for the safety of transgender people who present as women being forced to use a men’s restroom, citing the high rates of violence and harassment against that particular population.
Other speakers spoke against the bill from an economic point of view, pointing out that it opens up business owners to frivolous lawsuits and makes Florida an unfriendly state to LGBT tourists.
“I don’t see how you’d ever enforce it without putting a security guard in front of every public restroom in the state of Florida,” said Rep. Ken Roberson, a Republican committee member who voted against the bill “I believe the argument that this bill is going to prevent crimes from occurring in restrooms that are already illegal is weak, and I think passing this bill is not going to stop that type of criminal activity that is illegal.”
Roberson pointed out that generally when bills address legitimate concerns for public safety, law enforcement groups come out to speak, but those groups have been silent on HB 583.
Rep. John Cortes called the bill “a total waste of time,” and several committee members echoed speakers’ opinions that if this bill corrects a problem with a local ordinance, it should be dealt with on a local level.
Despite the bill’s approval, just two committee members spoke in favor of it: Jimmie Smith and Committee Chair Michael Bileca, both Republicans.
“If this bill was to fail, would the transgender hear our voice like we’ve heard yours today? Would you go back to your communities and ask them to fix their ordinances?,” asked Smith, stating that politicians “pander” to the transgender community and tell them “what they want to hear” with “overly broad” protection ordinances.
Bileca expressed his willingness to push a flawed bill forward, stating that Rep. Artiles has been flexible and open in amending the bill.
In closing, Artiles stated that no speaker addressed his initial concern, that the Miami Dade ordinance allows heterosexual men to enter women’s bathrooms by stating that they identify as women.
“Gender identity itself is not a protected class under Title 7. There is no such thing,” Artiles said, before asking “When does your privacy outweigh my privacy?”
He argued that the enforcement and lawsuit issues are part of the bill being a work in progress.
“I need your favorable vote to work it,” Artiles said, and asked “How about if we add hormonal treatments?” before Bileca cut him off to proceed with the favorable committee vote.
From our media partner Watermark