Transgender restroom bill will be revamped, lawmaker says
By Dustin Gardiner The Republic | azcentral.com Mon Mar 25, 2013 2:25 PM
A bill that would have made it illegal for many transgender Arizonans to use the public bathroom of their choice has been gutted.
Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said he plans to introduce a new version of Senate Bill 1432 this week, removing any potential criminal penalties for transgender residents who enter the restroom of the opposite sex.
His original proposal would have made it a misdemeanor for a person to use a bathroom, locker room or dressing room that’s not designated for the sex listed on his or her birth certificate. Violators would have been guilty of disorderly conduct.
But Kavanagh said the new version seeks to take government entirely out of the business of regulating bathroom privileges.
He said it will prohibit local governments from passing ordinances that could subject businesses to lawsuits or criminal penalties if they forbid a transgender person from using a restroom.
Kavanagh said he decided to scrap the original proposal after it drew criticism from transgender advocates across the country and some of his fellow lawmakers, who felt it unnecessarily extended the reach of state government into bathrooms stalls.
Both versions of his so-called bathroom bill are a rebuke to Phoenix leaders, who voted last month to broadly outlaw discrimination against the city’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents. The protections apply in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations, such as restaurants and hotels.
“I’m just saying, you know what, that’s not government’s concern,” Kavanagh told The Republic. “We’re simply going to go right back to where it was the day before Phoenix passed its overreaching ordinance with respect to showers, dressing rooms and bathrooms.”
Rebecca Wininger, president of the gay-rights watchdog Equality Arizona, said Kavanagh’s new proposal does nothing to alleviate her concerns. She said it still singles out a group of people for discrimination.
“It’s no better to deny anyone the basic right of being able to use the restroom,” Wininger said. “I really don’t hink there’s anything behind it except for fear and possibly hate.”
Supporters of the city’s move said Kavanagh’s bill is a solution in search of a problem. They point to the 16 states and more than 166 cities and counties that have passed similar laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, which includes those who identify as a different sex than they were born.
Phoenix city attorneys have said the ordinance could extend to bathroom use in some cases. For instance, a person with male genitalia who identifies as a woman might have a discrimination claim if they are barred from using the restroom of their choosing and vice versa.