A bill to prohibit men going into the women’s bathrooms and vice-versa was held from the House Appropriations Committee agenda Wednesday, but the sponsor vowed to bring it back up for debate next week.
The bill comes in the wake of a divisive debate at the city of Phoenix over a measure that expanded the city’s anti-discrimination ordinances to include protections for the LGBT community relating to such matters as employment or renting an apartment. But critics latched on to the City Council’s decision as allowing a transgender man to use a women’s bathroom or vice versa.
Republican Rep. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills sponsored the strike-everything amendment to SB1432 that would make it a class one misdemeanor to intentionally enter a restroom, bathroom, shower, bath, dressing room or locker room that displays a sign indicating it is for a person of the opposite sex. Because the bill assigns only birth certificates as proof of sex, a man who has undergone sex reassignment surgery, who is legally classified as a woman in every other respect, would still have to use the men’s restroom. The same would apply to women who have undergone surgery to become men.
More than a dozen transgender people showed up to testify against the bill in committee, but the bill was held due to what Kavanagh described as a miscommunication.
The bill was scheduled to be heard in the House Appropriations Committee, which Kavanagh chairs, on Wednesday, but it was double-assigned. Its prime committee was Health, which never heard the bill. House rules require that bills be heard in the “first committee” they are assigned to and then the subsequent committees, in the order they were assigned.
House Health Committee Chair Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, said no one had asked for her consent to withdraw the bill from her committee, but when Kavanagh realized the lines of communication had become crossed, he met with her and asked for the bill to be withdrawn. But Carter temporarily refused.
At the beginning of Wednesday’s Appropriations Committee hearing, Kavanagh vowed to hear the bill next week, but Carter said she still hadn’t made a decision on whether to withdraw the bill and Kavanagh may have to strike the language onto a new bill.
The bill includes exceptions for entering another gender’s bathroom for persons entering as part of their job responsibilities, to give assistance to another person or a child, or because of a physical disability.
Democratic Rep. Jonathan Larkin of Glendale said he expects his fellow Democrats to oppose the bill on the bill if it makes it to a vote from the full House. He said Kavanagh should be focusing on the real issues of the day – like the budget and Medicaid expansion – and not wasting time on frivolous measures like this, and added that it is ironic that Kavanagh, a small government advocate, would want the state to decide who can use what bathroom.
“Big government is making its way into our bathroom stalls,” he said.
But there are already signs that the bill may not make it as far as the House floor. Republican Rep. Adam Kwasman of Oro Valley said that while he agrees with the intent of the bill, he thinks there are already ample tools in the box to address the problem, and a new law isn’t needed.
“I understands (Kavanagh’s) intentions, because I think what the city (of Phoenix) did was wrong, but I feel that this is not the way to go about it. It’s not good legislation.”