Tuesday, February 10, 2015
FL Bill Imprisons Trans People for Using Public Bathrooms
Gay marriage has been legal in Florida for a month now, and at this point, even the state’s hardcore conservatives seem increasingly resigned to the fact that marriage equality is here to stay. Accordingly, Florida’s more bigoted legislators have decided to turn their ire toward another maligned, disfavored minority—trans people—by proposing one of the most viciously sadistic, hypocritical bills the legislature has ever
The basic purpose of the bill is quite simple: to forbid trans people from using the public bathroom that matches their true gender. According to the bill’s text, any trans person who enters a “single-sex public facility” that doesn’t match their “biological sex” is guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor. A “single-sex public facility” includes bathrooms “maintained by an owner of public accommodations, a school, or a place of employment”—basically, any public bathroom in the entire state. Any trans person who violates the act could be sentenced to one year in prison.
It gets much, much worse. Any non-trans person who discovers a trans person using a bathroom that doesn’t align with their “biological sex” would be permitted to sue that trans person under the act. (If sued successfully, the trans person would have to pay their accuser’s attorney fees.) And, in a final turn of the screw, an “owner of public accommodations, a school, or a place of employment” who allows a trans person to use the bathroom of their true gender is liable for a civil suit. In other words, if a store owner does not actively prevent trans people from using her bathrooms, she can be sued by other customers. And of course, if the trans-friendly store owner is found to have allowed a trans person to use the bathroom, she’ll not only have to pay damages to disgruntled customers—she’ll also have to pay their attorney’s fees.
The obvious intent of this bill is to humiliate trans people by opening them up to criminal and civil liability merely for performing the most basic of bodily functions. Trans people already face harassment, discrimination, and sometimes violencewhile attempting to use the bathroom. This bill would effectively give anti-trans harassers the state’s blessing, while providing them a new avenue through which to shame trans Floridians—the court system. Many trans people are already anxious about using public bathrooms; some are afraid to leave their homes given the risk of verbal and physical abuse they face in public facilities. With this bill, the state would effectively legalize anti-trans harassment, sending a resounding message to trans people that they are not welcome in public life.