Transgender Discrimination Bill Passes Second Subcommittee

Frank Artiles' restroom bill that is being criticized as an antitransgender ordinance has passed its second hurdle in 12 days. On Tuesday, the House Government Operations Subcommittee voted to approve the bill 7-4. Back on March 5, the House Civil Justice Subcommittee approved it with a 9-5 vote

The bill (HB 583) proposes a measure that would have a person thrown in jail for a least a year for using a public restroom that doesn't match his or her gender. Artiles says the measure is about public safety and says it's meant to deter potential predators from going into a restroom and doing harm to someone.

The thinking, it seems, is that a man would put on a wig, enter a women's restroom, and assault a woman. But LGBT advocates have been arguing that the bill is discriminatory toward transgender people and gender-nonconforming people. 

If turned into a law, the measure would be enforced in public restrooms, particularly in businesses around the state. Moreover, the bill proposes a monetary award for anyone who reports a person walking into a restroom that doesn't coincide with his or her sex.

Breaking the proposed law would be a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

"This bill does not represent dignity and respect," Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith told the committee before the vote Tuesday. "This bill seeks to solve a problem that doesn't exist. This would require businesses to discriminate against their employees. It would force people into situations that actually present danger."

Smith has also called the bill a "poorly written lawsuit factory."

The bill has been backed by the majority of Republicans. But on Tuesday, one Republican, Rep. Ken Roberson of Port Charlotte, opposed the bill, expressing his concern that the measure could bring on unintended consequences.

For the bill to reach the house floor, it's required to get through at least least three subcommittees. As of now, it's gotten through its first two. But LGBT advocates have begun two online petitions to try to block the bill from moving forward.

Equality Florida has started a petition, as has the ACLU. A transgender man, Eli Mender, has started a petition as well

Equality Florida is also calling on people to email state legislators on the bill.

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