Arizona House Panel OKs Softened Transgender Bill
An Arizona House panel late Wednesday approved a measure targeting transgendered people who want to use bathrooms of the gender they identify with, voting along party lines to advance a bill that protects business owners who bar the practice.
The 7-4 vote concluded an hours-long parade of transgendered and straight people who tried to persuade the panel to oppose Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. John Kavanagh’s bill. The crowd broke out in chants of "shame, shame, shame" as the vote on the bill sponsored by the conservative Republican passed.
Kavanagh had radically altered the bill after being faced with an outcry from advocacy groups, but that wasn’t enough to keep about 200 opponents from attending a nearly 7-hour long hearing that concluded with several hours of testimony on the bill.
The original bill would have made it a crime for a transgendered person to use a bathroom other than his or her birth sex. The new bill instead seeks to shield businesses from civil or criminal liability if they ban people from restrooms that don’t match their birth sex.
It was prompted by the recent passage of a Phoenix anti-discrimination ordinance that social conservatives said prevented businesses from keeping transgendered people out of locker rooms, showers and bathrooms. Kavanagh said it would subject businesses to criminal charges and expose little children to "naked men in women’s locker rooms and showers,"
But the parade of witnesses Wednesday, many transgendered, said that was not only fear-based but just flat-out wrong.
"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," said Claire Swinford, a Tucson resident who was born a man but identifies and dresses as a woman.
In fact, she said, being dressed as a woman actually puts her at physical risk from being attacked by a man while trying to use a men’s restroom.
"What your bill attempts to do is sacrifice my personal safety for somebody else’s sense of discomfort."
Patty Medway, a transgendered woman who was born a man, said she’s been using female bathrooms for years without a problem. She called on Kavanagh to back away from his effort.