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Same-sex bathroom bill moves through first committee stop

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Despite opposition from numerous equality, healthcare and social service groups, a bill making it illegal to use a restroom designated for the opposite sex was voted “favorable” during its first committee stop Wednesday.

The Single-Sex Public Facilities bill proposed by South Florida Republican Frank Artiles passed the House Civil Justice Subcommittee 9-4 after countless speakers flooded the meeting.

Pegged a pro-privacy, public safety effort aimed at curbing sexual assault in restrooms, members of the subcommittee acknowledged that it does come with some unintended consequences.

The bill would make it illegal for transgender individuals to use the restroom designated for the gender with which they identify and instead force them to use the restroom designated for their biological sex.

After complaints from the LGBTQ community, the bill’s sponsor addressed some of the transgender concerns by adding some amendments and striking other provisions of the bill. Namely, the changes would allow post-op transgender people to use the restroom for the sex in which they were reassigned.

That would not address those in the transgender community who have not undergone transgender reassignment surgery and would also leave questions around trans youth.

Supporters of the measure lined up one after another to talk about public safety. Nathanial Wilcox is the executive director for P.U.L.S.E., People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality. Don’t be fooled by the name though. The Christian-based group is in firm support of the restroom bill.

“What about my right to be able to go into a restroom and not be invaded by a woman of the opposite sex,” Wilcox asked. “My wife doesn’t want a man coming into her restroom and invading her privacy.”

He continued, there is no guarantee of human rights to use whatever bathroom you choose.

Others continued on that logic by pointing to crimes in public restrooms involving men entering the women’s restroom. None pointed to specific cases. One mother told the committee she was concerned for her daughter’s safety if she was forced to use the restroom next to a man.

But another mother took a different tone.

“I have two beautiful daughters,” Jillian Fry said. “ A year ago I only had one.”

That’s because her oldest child is now transitioning from a male to a female.

“I’m more concerned about Jen now than I ever was before,” she said.

And she wasn’t alone. LGBTQ supporters and trans women pointed out that trans women are far more likely to be the victims of sexual assault and other violent crimes than they are to be the perpetrators. According to the Transgender Violence Tracking Portal, 102 transgender people were attacked during just the first four months of 2012.

The concerns were noted. State Rep. Artiles insisted he has an open door policy and will continue to meet with concerned citizens to make changes to the bill as it continues through committees.

“This is a very delicate and sensitive issue and I understand that,” Artiles said. “I’m willing to work with all the stakeholders.”

The legislation has a companion bill in the Senate. That bill was referred Tuesday to the Appropriations Subcommitte of Criminal and Civil Justice.

At the conclusion of Wednesday’s subcommittee vote, LGBTQ supporters began chanting, “trans lives matter” over and over again.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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