Transgender Floridians would have to use public bathrooms designated for their birth gender, unless they have a license or passport that proves they've completed their transition to their new sex under a bill that passed its first legislative committee on Wednesday.
The bill requires males transitioning to female and females transitioning to male to use single-sex public bathrooms, fitting rooms and locker rooms that are designated for the gender which they were born, regardless of the gender they now identify with. The House Civil Justice Subcommittee approved the bill 9-4, with Republicans supporting it and Democrats opposed.
Immediately after the vote, a group of transgender people and their supporters began chanting loudly "Translives matter!" and one shouted curses at the lawmakers. The vote followed more than an hour of emotional testimony on both sides of the issue.
Republican Rep. Frank Artiles of Miami said his bill (HB 583) is needed to prevent rapes, molestations, voyeurism and other crimes in bathrooms. He said he filed it after Miami-Dade County passed an ordinance allowing people to use the bathroom of the sex they identify as. He said it could be abused by heterosexual males who want to go into women's restrooms for the wrong reasons.
"Criminals and males will use this law as the cover of law to walk into a women's locker room and conduct ... lascivious crimes," Artiles said. "If a police officer stops them, all they have to do is say 'I feel like a woman today.'"
Cindy Sullivan cried as she testified against the bill. She introduced herself by her birth name, Robert, as she wore a blouse and skirt and talked about how she hasn't completed her transition to becoming a woman.
"I represent Rep. Artiles' greatest fear," she said.
But she said she would fear for her safety if she was forced to use a men's room while living as a woman. She said men can be bigger, stronger and meaner.
"You all just don't get it. I'm so scared of all of you. You can put me in jail for being me. This bill is government intrusion at its worst," Sullivan said. "I'm not a protected class. I'm a throw away piece of trash in this country of freedom and liberty."
While transgender groups argued that the bill was discriminatory, the executive director of an anti-discrimination group argued the opposite.
"I hear people standing up hear crying and talking about their rights. Well what about my rights to be able to go into a rest room and not be invaded by a woman?" said Nathaniel Wilcox of People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality. "My wife doesn't want a man coming into her rest room invading her privacy."
Similar issues have arisen in other states.
Kentucky lawmakers are considering legislation to force transgender students to use separate bathrooms in public schools.