Last month, the Phoenix City Council passed several anti-discrimination protections to ensure that LGBT individuals have equal access to employment, housing, and public accommodations; however, this equality triumph has been wrongly overshadowed by a series of reactionary laws.
In response to the anti-discrimination bill, Appropriations Committee chairman John Kavanagh (R-Ariz.) proposed legislation to ban individuals from using a restroom that does not match their birth sex. The proposed bill would make it a class one misdemeanor to use a restroom that does not match the gender listed on an individual’s birth certificate, and the individual could face a $2,500 fine and six months in jail, a consequence infinitely more severe than the "crime."
Kavanagh stated that the recent Phoenix anti-discrimination bill would expose little children to "naked men in women's locker rooms and showers." In other words, Kavanagh is looking to avoid situations he deems “uncomfortable” at the expense of Arizona’s transgender community.
After serious outcry from transgender advocacy groups and other sympathetic supporters, Kavanagh altered the proposed legislation. Instead, the bill will now protect businesses from civil or criminal liability if they choose to discriminate against transgender individuals who wish to use the restroom.
On Wednesday, transgender individuals delivered seven hours of testimony hoping to persuade the senate to shoot down the discriminatory bill. For example, Patty Medway, a transgender woman who was born a man, said she has been using female restrooms for years without a problem. In other words, the new legislation addresses a non-issue. Second, Claire Swinford, a Tucson resident who was born a man but identifies and dresses as a woman, said, "Search as you might there is not enough evidence that there is any risk in allowing a person with gender identity to use a restroom of their choice."
She continued to explain that using the men’s restroom actually puts her at risk and described occasions when men have attacked transgender women while they attempted to use the so-called "correct" restroom.
Only one person testified in favor of the bill, arguing that the initial Phoenix anti-discrimination bill infringed on the right of businesses to keep transgender individuals out of locker rooms, showers, and bathrooms.
Ultimately, the bill was passed and will now go to the full Arizona House for review and consideration.
In essence, this new legislation allows for and, worst of all, excuses the discrimination of transgender individuals, and therefore, completely negates last month’s anti-discrimination protections. The bill encourages gender profiling and, I fear, lots of peeping on individuals using the restroom, which, of course, is already illegal.
While I will not pretend to understand or identify with the severe discrimination experienced by transgender individuals, I am appalled by the general lack of empathy from conservative politicians on the Arizona House Panel. The new legislation solely draws unwanted attention to Arizona’s transgender community, and increases prospects for vulgar discrimination.