While the fight for marriage equality rages in Washington, another blow to LGBTQ rights is manifesting in Arizona. This week a state House panel voted to advance what’s become known as Arizona’s anti-transgender bathroom bill—a measure that gives businesses the power to ban transgender patrons from restrooms and locker rooms that don’t match their birth sex.
Known as SB1045, the bill has been a lightening rod of controversy in the state, but that didn’t stop its passage from Arizona’s Appropriations committee to its House floor this week by a vote of 7-4.
Vincent Paolo Villano, the director of communications for the National Center for Transgendered Equality tells TakePart the real danger of the bill goes beyond access to bathrooms. “If SB1045 become law, local nondiscrimination measures already in place to protect the transgender community would be unenforceable.” He says that businesses would essentially have free license to discriminate against trans and gender queer patrons.
In response to the bill’s advancement, Mara Keisling, NCTE’s executive director said in her public statement, “The Arizona Appropriations Committee approved an incredibly discriminatory and hateful bill that specifically targets transgender people…SB1045 brings more shame to Arizona’s legislature for isolating and targeting another marginalized community.”
The impetus for SB1045 seems to come from conservative views that the trans community poses a threat to kids. Villano explains, “It’s based upon this fear of predation against children, that exposing them to transgender people could somehow put them in danger.”
While it may defy belief, this latest version of Arizona’s anti-bathroom bill is actually a kinder, gentler version of the original. Rep. John Kavanagh, the chairman of Arizona’s House Appropriations Committee and the bill’s author, originally wrote the proposed law with the intent of making it a criminal offense for transgender people to use a bathroom that didn’t match their birth certificate. It became known mockingly as the “papers please, bathroom bill.”
The consequence of breaking that proposed law would have been a $2,500 fine and six months in jail.
Bowing to public pressure, Kavanaugh rewrote his proposed legislation to exclude the criminal offense, but even in its newest form, the bill is no less incendiary; it negates any legal protections transgender people currently have under city statutes and discards any legal consequences for businesses who discriminate against them.
Abbey Jensen, an attorney and activist fighting to prevent the bill from becoming law, told HuffPost Live “What it really does is legitimizes harassment of transgender people…[It tells the public,] ‘These people have no protection, they don’t deserve protection, so have at it.’ ”
The danger in Arizona’s bill reaches beyond the transgender-identifying community living within the state’s borders and extends to the nation as a whole.
If the state’s proposed law gets on the books, it could serve as a model for other states to copy. Were that to happen, not only would transgender-identifying people face legislated discrimination, but the rights of all those who express their gender in a way that their state finds “outside of the norm,” could face similar obstructions to their freedom.
Despite the Appropriation’s panel voting in favor of moving the bill forward, the NCTE remains encouraged by the outpouring of support that it’s received to defeat it. Villano says, “We’ve had people reach out from within Arizona and all over the country to help us in this fight.”
SB1045 will now go to the full Arizona House for review and consideration. As the U.S. Supreme Court (finally) takes a step forward for LGBTQ rights, it seems Arizona is working overtime to take two steps back.
The transgender community may have a long ways to go before gaining national acceptance, but its refusal to quietly submit to legislated harassment marks it as formidable foe against discrimination and prejudice. Whatever the outcome, Arizona’s House is in for quite a fight.
How would you respond to a bill like SB1045 in your home state? Let us know in the Comments.
Related stories on TakePart