The nationwide crackdown on transgender and non-binary people’s access to public accommodations is progressing through Florida’s Legislature. Two companion bills, HB 1521 and SB 1674, may be broader than they first appear to be.
Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said the bills don’t just attempt to control bathroom use by transgender people but represent a much more “broad and vague” ban on gender-inclusive restrooms and changing facilities in private businesses, health care facilities, schools, public shelters, and jails.
Gross argues that such attempts to regulate private businesses and domestic violence shelters separate it from similar bans across the country — which, she said, makes this much more than a simple “bathroom ban.”
“The majority party likes to talk a lot about being pro-business, but this is government overreach into private businesses and, obviously, into the lives and livelihood of transgender Floridians,” she said.
Bans like this have been challenged in other states, Gross said, predicting this could spin off pricy litigation for the state and “waste taxpayer resources.”
However, she also argues the most costly element of bills like these is the threat they pose to transgender people’s fundamental human rights and safety.
The bills don’t specify any protocol to follow when either challenging someone or being challenged by another individual in these spaces. They do open the door to bothering anyone in a bathroom based on assumptions about their gender.
“There’s no good way for businesses to enforce these laws without invading everyone’s privacy,” Gross said. “Lots of people may present in ways that might not be clear to someone else but, under this bill, another can challenge that person if they don’t present female enough or man enough — and what is that person to do? How do you prove your gender?”
The ACLU of Florida denounced the legislation following a favorable vote on it during a Commerce Committee meeting Monday.
Kirk Bailey, political director for the ACLU, said the bill constitutes “state-sanctioned discrimination” and makes it impossible for transgender people to live their daily lives.
“In addition to harming transgender and nonbinary adults, youth, and visitors throughout the state, this bill will harm and embarrass many other individuals who will be harassed because of their perceived gender presentation,” he said in a Monday press release.
“No one should have their privacy invaded for simply going about their daily activities,” he added.
The House bill heads to the floor next and the Senate’s is due for a vote in the Fiscal Policy Committee, although neither forum had set a date as of Friday.
Rep. Rachel Plakon, a Republican representing part of Seminole County, said the House bill’s goal is to provide “common decency standards in private spaces,” during the Monday hearing.
“There have been dozens of cases across the U.S. and overseas where people have been assaulted in the restroom,” she said, citing what she called her own research. “And most of the time, it is a heterosexual male assaulting a female in the women’s restroom.”
If that’s so, the legislative analysis for the House bill makes no mention of it.
A 2017 CNN investigation concluded that transgender people were more likely to be the victims in such cases. The news organization cited a 2013 survey by UCLA’s Williams Institute finding that 70% of transgender respondents “reported being denied access, verbally harassed, or physically assaulted in public restrooms.”
Rep. Kristen Arrington, a Democrat representing part of Osceola County, asked the popular question of what would happen to a transgender man using the women’s restroom.
“The series of events would be that someone would have to ask the person to leave if they felt that it was not a female in the women’s restroom, for example,” she said. “If the person refused to leave, then the person that asked them to leave could call a manager — depending on what the facility is — an owner, or could call law enforcement.”
“Likely nothing,” she said with a smile, would happen to an individual who uses the restroom and immediately leaves.
Plakon said the bill doesn’t require businesses and other covered entities to “police” a situation by holding an individual until law enforcement arrives. If and once law enforcement arrives, it’s “up to officer discretion” to apply their “de-escalation training,” and assess the situation, she said. An entity that “willfully violates” the bill’s provisions would be subject to “civil action” brought by the Attorney General.
Senate bill sponsor Erin Grall, a Republican representing Southeastern Florida counties, said she anticipates amendments to the proposal before it’s heard again.
As currently filed, both bills lack clear language outlining how the measure will be enforced.
Rep. Christopher Benjamin, a Democrat representing Miami-Dade County, said the measure is “almost worthless” because, as written, it can’t be policed, investigated, or prosecuted.
According to the ACLU’s Bailey, a legal challenge is likely and has a chance for success.
“Nondiscrimination laws have been successfully implemented in over 400 cities and 21 states to protect LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination and allow transgender people to use restrooms that align with their gender identity,” he said.
–Briana Michel, Florida Phoenix
FL hates women says
What do people think goes on in a public restroom? FFS. Here’s a name. Google it. Laith Ashley. If I saw Mr. Ashley, in a woman’s bathroom, I’d lose my mind. I’d call him a perv and ask what he was doing in there. He would say, this bathroom ban. Look up, Lea T. She would have to use the men’s room here.
Do you people who oppose this have any idea what this could mean? Cisgender hetero men wishing to harm women saying they are transmen entering the woman’s bathroom. There are no gender checks (nor should there be because that’s just creepy). Women will actually be harmed now because of this. There is always someone out there who sees an opportunity (faking being a transman and following a woman into a public bathroom) and does harm (assaulting her). And then of course because of the 6-week abortion ban, she wont know she’s pregnant until it’s too late. And on top of that she’ll have to show proof and if it’s her word against his, he will deny every saying he was a transman and the defense will say he let her in the bathroom and it was consensual, she’s just having regret. Not to mention the possibility of a transwoman being assaulted as well in the men’s room.
Don’t think that will happen? It will. I would be on this scenario actually happening. Women are no longer safe in public restrooms. FL hates women.
Next up, a MAGA bill to tattoo (or is it brand?) a big “B” or “G” on the forehead of every baby born in this great and free USA! Everyone will know for certain who is which birth gender. Think how easy it will be to tell if someone is peeing in the wrong bathroom! Nobody will have to guess (or try to read a banned book) to figure out who is what. Another great idea brought to you by the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and our own Ron Desantis.
Will we have to show a birth certificate to pee? Let’s get Rand Paul and Jim Jordan on this! They are always screaming about our “freedoms”. Hahaha the hypocrisy is knee deep.
Craziness again! says
What are these crazy people so afraid of?
They call this Freedom in America for all ???
These law makers need to seek Doctors for their Homophobic thoughts & beliefs, it’s funny because they maybe sitting aside some anywhere they go and don’t even know it.
The dude says
We’ve come full circle… we’re back to the cons wanting to check everybody’s junk.
I believe that the idiotic, MAGA-loving conservative fools in most of this state’s elected positions are only biting off their noses to spite their faces. Time and time again, their push to enact very restrictive, draconian legislation that flies in the face of the wishes of the majority of voters in this state only serves to alienate more and more FL citizens, including the moderate conservatives and independent voters. Bills like this one serve no purpose whatsoever, and they are just plain stupid because many restaurants and other businesses have gone from having large separate-sex restrooms for men and women to just a couple of individual, private restrooms with locking doors that have both the men and women symbol on each one, so either sex can use it. I believe at least part of the reason for the change is that businesses DON’T want to be the bathroom police and are trying to avoid these nonsensical controversies over who is using which bathroom. Come on, doesn’t government have much more important things to be concerned about?!
When will those in power start treating people like human beings. What makes them think they can control everyone they don’t agree with? They take an oath of office to protect and serve everyone, so why aren’t they doing that?
“White” and “Colored” restrooms are not a good comparison to the trans discussion. Anyone nowadays can just say they identify as whatever they want, and we are forced to accept it? Until a man sized penis gets whipped out infront of your pre-teen daughter in the women’s restroom. And possibly taking pictures over the stall like my daughter had happened to her. I dont care what people do on their on time, but i care when girls and womens rights and freedoms are at stake.
Nancy N. says
Uhh, are you in the habit of showing off your genitals in the ladies’ room? I don’t know anyone who is. I’ve never once seen another person’s private parts in a women’s restroom. And frankly, being concerned about taking pictures over a stall has NOTHING to do with transgender people. That just has to do with creeps, period. Which aren’t the same thing as transgender people, no matter how much conservative media wants you to think they are the same thing.
Have you ever been in a women’s room? Are you aware they don’t have urinals (single or trough) and that they have individual stalls to use, just like the stalls in a men’s room? You can see a dick if someone’s using a urinal, but in a stall how the fuck do you know if someone’s sitting or standing to pee, or if they’re sitting if they’re peeing or pooping?
I’m a trans man, I have over a decade of experience in men’s rooms and almost two decades’ worth in women’s rooms. I can say I have never seen anybody’s genitals in the women’s room. Everybody in a stall can be doing whatever.
You two commenters are funny. And both butt hurt. Nor do i care what you “identify” as. I believe most women would feel uncomfortable with a man in a womens restroom. Plain and simple.
my guy, you’re worried about someone taking pictures of girls and women in a stall, but you fail to realize that more of that is gonna happen after this bill. People are gonna be more vigilant about someone’s gender and then pester and coerce the person to show their nether regions to “prove” they can use the restroom.
Cis women who are taller than average, or with strong jaws, slightly deeper voices, or masculine butch lesbian women will be targeted. Cis men who are shorter than average, skinny and lanky, no facial hair, not very masculine and maybe a not-so-deep voice will be targeted. If a bio woman doesn’t look “feminine” enough, she’s gonna be a victim. Vice versa for bio men. Intersex people who pass as either will be targeted.
Actual preds (usually bio men) will use this law as an opportunity to victimize anyone in a bathroom to “inspect”. The fact you can’t see past your hate shows me you DON’T actually care for victims of sex crimes.
A trans man at a camp was banned for using the men’s restroom, so he went to the women’s restroom (which is required by LAW now in Florida) and was summarily beaten and kicked out for it. So if “women just feel uncomfortable by a man using the women’s restroom”, shouldn’t trans men be using the men’s restroom then?
I’ll say this again. . . It’s very, very simple. . . create one restroom with ALL “private” booths and one with urinals only. . . no gender restrictions required! Geez!!!
The Florida state government “should” be focused on making life better for ALL Floridians instead of wasting their time and taxpayers’ millions pandering to these far right/religious culture warriors!
Bruce Pitts says
Our recommendation for gender-neutral, single-occupancy restrooms was passed in 2018. These are now legal wherever the International Plumbing code applies (35 states).
Forget gender-neutral, multi-stall restrooms. Gender-neutral, single-occupancy restrooms are the safest design and use the least amount of square-footage. See website below for details.
American Restroom Association
Bruce Pitts: Sounds like a real solution. Would you please put a direct link to your webpage?
C’mon man says
It’s sad there are laws on taking a piss but our county has become weak and these are the results.
Dave Roskins says
You pions that run FlaglerLive and it’s writers are seriously mentally ill!
@DR.. . You don’t like awarding winning Flaglerlive. . . .please read something else and post your vile comments there! Your comments will NOT be missed!