Florida State Rep. Frank Artiles (R) has introduced a bill that would prevent transgender people from using the restroom that matches their gender. According to HB 538, a trans person using the proper bathroom would commit a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine. This criminalization would “secure privacy and safety for all individuals.”
In addition to making it a crime to use the restroom, Artiles’ bill would also make it so that when transgender people use the restroom, they become “liable in a civil action to any person who is lawfully using the same single-sex public facility.” So, too, would the owner of any public accommodation be liable for civil action for allowing such usage.
Artiles rejects the idea that his bill paints the transgender community as “dangerous,” but he worries that Miami-Dade County’s new transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance “creates a giant loophole for criminals, sexual deviants and sexual predators to walk into a shower, a woman’s locker room under the cover of law.”
He explained to the Miami Herald the situation he envisions: “A man such as myself can walk into the bathroom at LA Fitness while women are taking showers, changing, and simply walk in there. Someone can say, ‘What are you doing there?’ Under the ordinance, I don’t have to respond. It’s subjective. If I feel like a woman that day, I can be allowed to be in that locker room. I don’t know about you, but I find that disturbing.”
In a statement posted on his own blog, Artiles further explained that the bill is “not intended to discriminate against transgender [sic] or transsexuals.” Instead, he believes the gender identity protections include a “loop hole” that would protect “criminals, sexual deviants, pedophiles, and voyeurs.”
Gender identity is something that is consistent day-to-day. A man who only identifies as a woman only when he wants to engage in voyeurism would not be protected, and indeed, laws that protect against such invasions of privacy — and certainly those that protect against harassment — can be enforced against such a person as much as they ever were. Meanwhile, it is transgender people who actually worry about harassment in facilities like locker rooms, and they choose the gender designation that matches how they identify and present themselves for their own safety.
The Florida Democratic Party issued a statement Friday from openly gay Rep. David Richardson (D) condemning the “extreme bill.” Richardson noted that the bill would not only persecute trans people, but it would also deter business, concluding, “Putting the transgender community in harm’s way and hurting Florida’s economic competitiveness for partisan political reasons is simply unacceptable.”
Experts in states across the country where transgender protections have already been in place have debunked the myth of sexual predators exploiting these laws as “beyond specious.”