On Tuesday, Florida Rep. Frank Artiles' restroom bill passed the House Civil Justice Subcommittee on a 9-5 vote. It was one of three subcommittee votes the bill will have to get through in order to get to the House floor. Still, it was a symbolic defeat for LGBT activists and the transgender community.
And yet, HB 583 passing that first subcommittee might also have sparked the kind of response that will ultimately defeat it. Before the vote took place, LGBT activists, civil rights activists, and transgenders gave two hours of emotional testimony over the draconian bill. On Twitter, people expressed their disgust over the bill with a #HB583 hashtag. Some even called out Artiles, tweeting directly at him and accusing him of hate-mongering.
Gina Duncan, a Wells Fargo regional manager and member of Equality Florida's Director of Transgender Inclusion, and a transgender woman, gave stirring testimony to the subcommittee as Artiles watched.
Duncan shared of the support she received from her family, children, friends, and Wells Fargo when she transitioned from a man to a woman eight years ago. And then she expressed her fears over the restroom measure.
"Until this bill was introduced, I have not felt afraid, suppressed, or marginalized," she told the subcommittee. "Today I feel all of that and more. For the first time since I transitioned, I am afraid of being discriminated against in the most base and hurtful ways."
Duncan then pulled out her Florida drivers' license and pointed to it.
"Unless this gender marker was changed, I would be forced to use the men's room, today, under this bill," she said. "Is this where we want to go as a state? Is this where we really want to go as a society? And is this the legacy we want to leave our children, of intolerance and open, blatant discrimination?"
Another transgender woman, Cindy Sullivan, broke down in tears during her testimony. She said that, while her license still identifies her as a man, her employer allows her to use the women's restroom. Should HB 583 pass, it would force Sullivan to use the men's restroom.
"You all just don't get it," Sullivan said. "You could put me in jail for being me."
The meeting and vote was followed by a group of people chanting "trans lives matter!"
Artiles has said that the true intent of the bill is to protect women from sexual predators who might walk into a woman's restroom with a wig or disguised as a female. Some who support the bill say that a trans nondiscrimination laws would open the door for restroom assaults.
But states that have transgender nondiscrimination laws say that concern is baseless and that there is no evidence of such things happening where transgenders are allowed to use the restroom of their sex.
Moreover, according to a national transgender discrimination survey study, it's transgenders who have been assaulted or attacked.
In the end, while the measure passed the subcommittee on party lines, dialogue has been opened. Testimonies given. And, more important, the bill is being shown for what it is.
Forcing people into bathrooms that don't match their gender doesn't "protect" anyone, if anything it endangers us. #HB583— Josie M. (@papertronica) March 4, 2015
8% of us are murdered, 41% of us commit suicide, but we're "dangerous". "Unsafe". "Don't belong". "Inherent rape weapons". #HB583— ellen, sonic's wife (@kadybat) March 4, 2015
The idea that the Florida Legislature is going to police bathrooms and do gender checks is the VERY definition of "BIG GOVERNMENT" #HB583— Katy Burnett (@BurnettKaty) March 5, 2015