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article imageArizona bill would jail trans people for using 'wrong' bathrooms

By Brett Wilkins     Mar 20, 2013 in Politics
Phoenix - Reflecting conservative backlash against Phoenix's new anti-discrimination law, a Republican state lawmaker in Arizona has introduced a bill that would jail transgender individuals who use public restrooms not designated for their birth gender.
Senate Bill 1432, introduced by Sen. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), would criminalize entry into public restrooms marked for use by a gender that does not match the sex on an individual's birth certificate. Violators would be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a $2,500 fine and six months behind bars.
Sen. Kavanagh, who fears pedophiles using opposite sex restrooms will expose themselves to children, believes that transgender individuals using the bathrooms that are right for them is such a threat to the state's public safety that SB 1432 has an emergency clause that would make the law go into effect immediately if Gov. Jan Brewer, a socially conservative Republican, signs it. Anti-gay conservatives often speciously link LGBT individuals to pedophiles to foment public opposition to civil rights protections enjoyed by much of the rest of society.
Kavanagh's own comments regarding the proposed measure strongly suggest that he introduced the bill in rejection of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law passed by the Phoenix City Council last month. The law adds protections for LGBT residents to the city's existing anti-discrimination ordinance, codifying safeguards for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals in city contracts, housing, employment and public places like hotels and restaurants.
"The city of Phoenix has crafted a bill that allows people to define their sex by what they think in their head," Kavanagh told 12 News. "It also raises the specter of people who want to go into those opposite sex facilities not because they're transgendered, but because maybe they're just weird."
Explaining SB 1432, Kavanagh told the Associated Press, "This law simply restores the law of society: Men are men, and women are women. For a handful of people to make everyone else uncomfortable just makes no sense."
The bill does provide exceptions for children requiring assistance, physically disabled individuals and workers who must enter restrooms to perform their duties. It also gives police discretion in cases such as when a woman uses the men's restroom to avoid a long ladies' room line.
But a post-operational trans woman, who has female genitalia, would be breaking the law since her birth certificate states she was born male.
Critics are slamming the so-called "Show Me Your Papers Before You Go Potty" bill, a reference to Arizona's strict anti-illegal immigration law, as a bigoted reaction to Phoenix's new anti-discrimination law and ignorant of gender identity issues.
Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot, who is gay, told the Arizona Republic that the proposed bill would criminalize "the very nature" of being transgender.
"They're creating a solution to a problem that doesn't exist," Simplot said. "This kind of extremist legislation is exactly what brings criticism to Arizona and compromises our work to make Phoenix an accepting and compromising city."
"Many transgender people do not look like the sex that's designated on their birth certificate," Michael Silverman, director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, told the Republic. "This bill will put transgender people in serious danger."
"If you look like a man, and you live your life like a man, you should be able to use a man's bathroom," Dru Levasseur, a transgender rights attorney for Lambda Legal, told the AP. "It's just common sense."
But supporters of SB 1432 don't don't think so.
"Someone can just say, 'Oh, I feel like a woman,'" Aaron Baer, a spokesman for the powerful conservative advocacy group Center for Arizona Policy, told the AP. "That person can just say, 'You're discriminating against me.'"
Arizona's "bathroom bill" comes less than a month after the parents of Coy Mathis, 6-year-old transgender girl, filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division after her school banned the first-grader from using the girl's restroom.
Sixteen states and more than 100 US cities and towns have passed laws prohibiting discrimination against individuals based on their gender identity. A measure similar to the one being proposed in Arizona was introduced in Tennessee last year, but it failed to become law. There, the lawmaker who introduced a bill that would have barred transgender individuals from using restrooms designated for the 'opposite' sex actually threatened physical violence against trans people.
"If I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there-- I don't care if he thinks he's a woman and tried on clothes with them in there-- I'd just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry," Rep. Richard Floyd, a Republican, reportedly said. "Don't ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking."
More about transgender issues, Arizona, transgender bathroom, rep john kavanagh, arizona sb 1432
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