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Florida Republicans pass 'bathroom bill' targeting trans people

The Safety in Private Spaces Act would allow trans people to be criminally charged for using certain bathrooms.

By Will Fritz - May 05, 2023
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Florida Representatives Jason Shoaf, left, and Webster Barnaby chat during a break in a legislative session, Friday, April 30, 2021, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Florida Reps. Jason Shoaf (left) and Webster Barnaby (right) during a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee. During a recent committee debate in Florida, Barnaby called trans people "demons," "mutants" and "imps." (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature this week passed a bill that would make it possible for trans people who use bathrooms that align with their gender identity to be charged with criminal trespassing.

The state Senate voted 26-12 on Wednesday to pass the Safety in Private Spaces Act, which would make it a crime for anyone to use certain restrooms or changing rooms that don’t align with the sex they were assigned at birth, provided they are first asked to leave by another person using that facility. The House of Representatives approved the bill 80-36 later that day, according to a story posted on May 4 on the website of the Tallahassee Democrat.

In both chambers, it passed with only Republican votes in its favor. Zero Democrats voted in favor of it. The bill now goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign it.

The bill as currently written applies to restrooms and changing rooms in government buildings, including schools and correctional facilities, as well as to private and charter school buildings. According to Politico, the bill was amended before its passage to remove language applying to bathrooms in many types of businesses, such as gas stations.

Critics say the language of the bill is too broad.

“Lots of people may present in ways that might not be clear to someone else but, under this bill, another can challenge that person if they don’t present female enough or man enough — and what is that person to do?” ACLU of Florida legislative director and senior policy counsel Kara Gross told the Florida Phoenix in April, before the bill was amended to remove references to businesses. “How do you prove your gender?”

Politico reported that during a hearing on the bill in the Florida House on April 10, Republican Rep. Webster Barnaby said after advocates for LGBTQ+ people, some of whom identified as trans, had testified: “The Lord rebuke you, Satan, and all of your demons and all of your imps who come parade before us. That’s right, I called you demons and imps, who come and parade before us and pretend that you are part of this world.”

Barnaby apologized during the session: “I referred to trans people as demons. I would like to apologize to the trans community for referring to you as demons.”

The Florida bill is similar to those passed in Republican-dominated states over the last several years.

The bathroom bill is not the only anti-LGBTQ legislation passed by Republican lawmakers in Florida in the past week. They also passed bills banning college diversity programs and ensuring that students and teachers will not have to use pronouns that do not match a person’s sex assigned at birth, according to the Associated Press.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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