Florida’s stunningly malicious anti-trans bill passed its first major legislative hurdle on Wednesday, sailing out of the House Civil Rights Subcommittee with a 9-to-4 vote. (Yes, a subcommittee with that name actually approved this thing.) Republicans unanimously and enthusiastically supported the bill; Democrats unanimously and vigorously opposed it. When I first wrote about the proposed measure in February, a number of Floridians wrote me predicting it would quietly die in subcommittee without ever receiving a vote. After Wednesday’s vote, the bill’s passage into law suddenly seems like a distinct possibility.
How did we get to this point? The Florida measure isn’t just some garden variety anti-trans proposal; it is a gross denial of trans people’s basic humanity. Should it become law, trans people will be barred from using the public bathroom of their true gender—including those in schools and workplaces—and face up to a year in prison if they try. Arguably worse, an “owner of public accommodations, a school, or a place of employment” who allows a trans person to use the correct public bathroom is liable for a civil suit. In other words, the bill doesn’t just target trans people; it also targets their allies, forcing them to risk fines should they make a simple act of trans accommodation.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Frank Artiles, claims he proposed it in response to Miami’s new nondiscrimination ordinance, which broadly protects trans rights. According to Artiles, the Miami ordinance lets men legally enter women’s restrooms and locker rooms in order to assault them. “All they have to say,” Artiles explained on Wednesday, “is, ‘I feel like a woman today.’”
There is some profound irony in this cruelly mocking comment. Although straight cisgender men do not actually use trans rights measures as an excuse to assault women, trans people do face a constant threat of discrimination, harassment, and violence. They experience these perils in large part because mendacious legislators like Artiles insist on perpetuating misconceptions and outright lies that encourage the view that trans people are aberrant molesters and freaks. Artiles’ bill will not actually protect any innocent women, but it will contribute to a toxic atmosphere that assures bigots that they are within their rights to attack and bully trans people. Florida House Republicans think Artiles’ bill protects civil rights. But it is overwhelmingly clear that this revolting measure does precisely the opposite.