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April 5, 2013

Arizona panel OKs version of anti-TG ‘bathroom’ bill

Phoenix, Ariz.--After immense outcry against an earlier, stricter version, the Arizona House of Representatives appropriations committee approved an anti-transgender bill on March 27.

The bill, which was introduced in response to Phoenix’s inclusion of LGBT people in antidiscrimination ordinances, would prevent municipalities from outlawing discrimination in the use of “privacy areas” based on gender identity or expression, and grants immunity to businesses denying access to such “privacy areas” based on their gender identity.

State Rep. John Kavanagh, the Appropriations Committee chair, first introduced an amendment to bill dealing with the state board regulating massage therapy. That amendment would have defined as “disorderly conduct” a person using a public “restroom, bathroom, shower, bath, dressing room or locker room and a sign indicates that the room is for the exclusive use of persons of one sex and the person is not legally classified on the person’s birth certificate as a member of that sex.”

Kavanagh admitted that the earlier amendment was overly stringent, and instead introduced the new measure, which passed the committee on a 7-4 party-line vote.

During a seven-hour hearing on the bill, the committee heard hours of testimony against the bill, but only one person in support of it.

The bill now goes to the Rules Committee before heading to the floor of the full House of Representatives.

“This bill sends a message to the public that it’s okay to exclude and harass transgender and gender-nonconforming people like me, and it has increased my level of fear that I myself will be targeted somehow,” said attorney Abby Jensen, who is transgender. “Already, I’ve heard reports of increased bullying and harassment against LGBT youth here in Tucson.”

Transgender Law Center executive director Masen Davis echoed her sentiments. “Transgender Arizonians already face shocking rates of discrimination and violence. Now, that harassment and discrimination could be state-sanctioned. The impact of this would be horrific.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said, “Rejecting the thousands of people who’ve spoken out against SB 1045 in Arizona and across the United States, Rep. Kavanagh and his six allies instead chose to defend discrimination and protect discriminators. SB 1045 brings more shame to Arizona’s legislature for isolating and targeting another marginalized community.”

“Transgender Arizonans and our allies stand stronger and more determined to put an end to Rep. Kavanagh’s anti-transgender campaign,” she concluded. “SB 1045 is an unnecessary bill, disconnected from the reality facing transgender Americans.”

At the hearings, the point was made that it was more dangerous for a transgender woman to enter a male restroom, for instance, than it would be for the women in the other restroom, were she to use it.

“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,” Claire Swinford of Tucson told the committee, according to the Associated Press. “What your bill attempts to do is sacrifice my personal safety for somebody else’s sense of discomfort.”

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