Florida legislation would criminalize trans people’s public bathroom use

| March 1, 2017

If passed, a new bill in Florida (HB 583) would prohibit trans people from using public bathrooms assigned to genders that don’t match the sex they were born with — and the consequences are steep.

As Slate reports, “any trans person who enters a ‘single-sex public facility’ that doesn’t match their ‘biological sex’ is guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor. A ‘single-sex public facility’ includes bathrooms ‘maintained by an owner of public accommodations, a school, or a place of employment’—basically, any public bathroom in the entire state.” The potential punishment for violating these terms? A $1,000 fine or up to a year in prison.

 

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The bill also seeks to discourage cisgender people (those who identify with their biological gender) from helping trans people access bathrooms: If a cisgender person finds a trans person using a bathroom that doesn’t match the trans person’s biological sex, the cisgender person would be allowed to sue him or her for being there. The trans person can also be responsible for the suing party’s legal fees.

Owners of schools, places of employment, and public accommodations who allow trans people to use the bathroom of their non-biological gender are also liable for civil suits. As Slate explains, “if a store owner does not actively prevent trans people from using her bathrooms, she can be sued by other customers. And of course, if the trans-friendly store owner is found to have allowed a trans person to use the bathroom, she’ll not only have to pay damages to disgruntled customers—she’ll also have to pay their attorney’s fees.”

The bill states that “single-sex public facilities are places of increased vulnerability and present the potential for crimes against individuals using these facilities, including, but not limited to, assault, battery, molestation, rape, voyeurism and exhibitionism,” notes The Guardian. Republican representative Frank Artiles introduced the legislation last week, in response to an ordinance passed in December that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and expression, saying that his bill is a “public safety measure,” according to The Guardian. “The whole purpose of this was to protect, especially females, from criminals.”

All-gender restroom signs available at MyDoorSign.com

All-gender restroom signs available at MyDoorSign.com

Artiles claims that the bill doesn’t target transgender people. “It’s not that the transgender or the gender identity community is dangerous by any means,” Artiles said, “but [the December legislation] creates a giant loophole for criminals, sexual deviants and sexual predators to walk into a shower, a woman’s locker room under the cover of law,” according to the Miami Herald. “A man such as myself can walk into the bathroom at LA Fitness while women are taking showers, changing, and simply walk in there. Someone can say, ‘What are you doing there?’ Under the ordinance, I don’t have to respond. It’s subjective. If I feel like a woman that day, I can be allowed to be in that locker room. I don’t know about you, but I find that disturbing.”

But do gender-neutral bathrooms actually encourage crime in practice? No, as Salon explains: Advocates, experts and law enforcement officials in states where gender identity protections exist “attest that the myth [of crime associated with gender-neutral bathrooms] has no factual grounding – not one reports even a single instance of assault or other crimes due to transgender facilities protections in their states.” In fact, in terms of sex assaults, it’s a “well-documented fact that transgender people are disproportionately targeted for such crimes.”

In response to the proposed bill, MyDoorSign is expanding its all-gender sign donations to private businesses in Florida. Visit MyDoorSign.com to see if your business qualifies.

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Category: Restrooms

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