TALLAHASSEE – A bill was introduced in the Fla. House Feb. 4 that would prohibit transgender individuals from using public facilities that align with their gender identities. The law, if passed would be liable for civil penalties.
Republican State Rep. Frank Artiles of Miami introduced the bill. Many supporters of the bill said it would allow for security, safety and privacy for all individuals using single-sex public facilities while also preventing anti-transgender sex crimes.
The bill, HB 583, is titled “Single-Sex Public Facilities.” On the Florida House of Representative’s website the description of the bill reads:“Requires that use of single-sex facilities be restricted to persons of sex for which facility is designated; prohibits knowingly and willfully entering single-sex public facility designated for or restricted to persons of other biological sex; provides exemptions; provides private cause of action against violators; provides for preemption.”
Equality Florida Transgender Inclusion Director Gina Duncan said that, despite the wording, the bill is a transgender discrimination bill and dehumanizes the transgender community.
“The bill’s definition categorizes people by their biological sex—either male of female—and in turn by doing that, it dismisses the very essence of what it means to be transgender and transitioning” Duncan said.
This bill is introduced after the county of Miami-Dade passed, by an 8-3 vote in December 2014, an amendment to its gay rights ordinances to add gender identity and expression. The amendment came, though, after much debate, public discussion and much opposition.
But this bill would undue all the work that Miami-Dade and other cities and counties have done. If passed, this bill would have the power to override any local nondiscrimination ordinances that includes gender identity and expression protections.
Ducan said that another alarming aspect of the bill is if a person who willing and willfully enters a single-sex facility that doesn’t align with their biological sex, then they’re liable by civil action by any person who is lawfully using the same single-sex public facility at the time as the unlawful entry.
“A transgender person can go into a restroom which aligns with their gender identity and expression and if for some reason another person in that restroom deems them to be transgender, then they’re subject to potentially one year of misdemeanor and one year in jail,” Duncan said.
She said it is also concerning that the bill can ultimately override and undo all the progress that has been made in the last couple years for the transgender community in Florida.
“LGBT advocacy organizations across the state are mobilizing to oppose this bill,” Gina said. “At this point, we are assessing the reality of this bill. Due to the bill being so extreme, there is some discussion in reference to whether this is sensationalism on the part of Rep. Artiles. It was drafted in anticipation of a larger fight, which is the Competitive Workforce Act which is going to be coming up in this legislative session.”