A panel of lawmakers from the Arizona House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to pass a bill which, if it progresses to become law, would give business owners the legal right to bar trans people from using facilities which fit their gender identity.
Republican Representative John Kavanagh introduced the bill earlier this month in direct response to legislation passed in Ferbruary, which added discrimination protections for LGBT people ensuring they have access to employment, housing and public accommodations.
Originally Mr Kavanagh’s bill took an even harder line against trans people, making it a criminal offence for a person to use any gendered facilities, such as bathrooms, which did not match up to the gender on their birth certificate. Violation of the law would have amounted to disorderly conduct, which could be prosecuted as a class one misdemeanour, resulting in fines or worse.
Mr Kavanagh said he had amended the bill after facing heavy criticism from concerned trans rights lobbies. The bill is now limited to allowing businesses to choose to bar people from using facilities that don’t match the gender on their birth certificate.
For several hours on Wednesday the House panel listened to lobbies opposing the amended bill, with both trans and cisgendered opponents giving evidence as to why it would be harmful.
They broke into a chant of “shame, shame, shame” as the panel voted 7-4 to pass the bill.
Patty Medway, a trans woman, said: “I’ve been using washrooms for 15 years and I don’t want to be discriminated against, and I’m scared to go to a male washroom.”
In contrast to the strong showing of opposition only one person, local small business owner Nohl Rosen, appeared to testify in support of the bill. He said he was concerned the anti-discrimination protection for LGBT people would “impose” on people.
“I don’t believe that the opposing side should be able to impose their views on others. The way I feel, this is just the liberal left forcing their views on the rest of us,” he said.
The bill was unanimously supported by the panel’s Republicans and opposed by Democrats.
One, Democrat representative Stefanie Mach, said: “Frankly. I think this [bill] is an embarrassment to our state.”
The bill will now proceed to the full House of Representatives.