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Equality Florida rallying members to oppose Frank Artiles’ transgender bill

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Miami Republican Frank Artiles’ controversial bill that would criminalize bathroom use for transgender people moves to its second committee in the House tomorrow, and LGBT activists are in Tallahassee right now trying to lobby legislators to vote against it.

HB 583 goes before the Government Operations Subcommittee on Tuesday. The legislation would make it illegal for the transgendered to enter sex segregated facilities such as bathrooms, locker rooms, or dressing rooms. Critics say the bill would also compel businesses to discriminate against their own employees and customers, and invalidate nondiscrimination policies that already exist on the local level.

State Rep. Artiles says he proposed the bill  in response to Miami’s new nondiscrimination ordinance, which broadly protects trans rights. According to Artiles, the Miami ordinance lets men legally enter women’s restrooms and locker rooms in order to assault them. He says his legislation is needed to prevent rapes, molestations, voyeurism and other crimes in bathrooms.

Legislators are being lobbied by dozens of members from Equality Florida today. The LGBT activist group has a contingent of whom they call “volunteer lobbyists” in Tallahassee this week for their Annual Lobby Days.

They’ve also issued a script that they’d like their members to use in calling up the 10 members of the Government Operations Subcommittee who will be voting on the bill tomorrow. They also have listed House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and House Majority Leader Dana Young among legislators to contact.

In discussing his support for the amendment that would repeal Florida’s ban on same-sex adoptions on the floor of the House last week, Artiles acknowledged that the bill has made international headlines, but he pushes back on the idea that his legislation is hateful.

“I’m not a homophobe. I’m not a transphobe. I’m a father,” Artiles said before voting for the bill.

But while Equality Florida is trying to have the majority Republican House reject the bill, undoubtedly Christian conservatives are pushing legislators to support it.

The Florida Family Council has listed Artiles’ legislation as part of the “good bills” being introduced in Tallahassee this session.

If the bill moves through the Government Operations Subcommittee successfully, its next stop would be in the House Judiciary Committee.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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