First Arizona lawmakers went after the immigrant community with SB 1070. Now they’re going after transgender people with SB 1045.
Last week, Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh (R) failed to pass a bill that would have prosecuted transgender people with a class 1 misdemeanor for using public restrooms that don’t match their birth sex. But late Wednesday a panel of Arizona state lawmakers voted to advance a softer bill that protects business owners from discrimination lawsuits if they forbid a transgender person from using a restroom or fitting room.
Senate Bill 1045 would prohibit local governments from passing ordinances that could subject businesses to lawsuits or criminal penalties if they forbid a transgender person from using a restroom.
Bill sponsor Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said the measure is a response to Phoenix’s new city ordinance, which bans discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents. The law applies to public accommodations such as stores, restaurants and hotels.
City attorneys have said the ordinance could extend to bathroom use in some cases. For instance, a person with male genitalia who identifies as a woman might have a discrimination claim if the facility bars that person from using the restroom, and vice versa.
During seven hours of testimonies during Wednesday’s hearing, only one person testified in favor of the bill, according to the AP, while more than 200 turned out to testify in opposition.
Gay and transgender rights advocates say SB 1045 will lead to profiling and discrimination.
"This law not only gives business owners the right to profile and discriminate against transgender people, but encourages harmful ‘gender-policing’ of anyone who doesn’t look masculine or feminine enough," said M. Dru Levasseur, a transgender rights attorney for Lambda Legal, in an email to Colorlines.com.
"Transgender people are targets for hatred and violence. To pass a law that carves out a license to discriminate is extremely dangerous," Levasseur went on to say.
The National Center for Transgender Equality echoed Levasseur concerns.
"The Arizona Appropriations Committee approved an incredibly discriminatory and hateful bill that specifically targets transgender people," said NCTE executive director Mara Keisling in a statement. "Rejecting the thousands of people who’ve spoken out against SB1045 in Arizona and across the United States, Rep. Kavanagh and his six allies instead chose to defend discrimination and protect discriminators. SB1045 brings more shame to Arizona’s legislature for isolating and targeting another marginalized community."