PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – A Florida lawmaker from Miami is sponsoring a single-sex public facilities bill that a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights group claims is discriminatory.
State Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, has filed a bill that would make it a crime for anyone who isn't a "biological male" or "biological female" to use a public restroom, dressing room, locker room, shower "or other similar facilities where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy."
Equality Florida spokesman Jim Harper told Local10.com that the St. Petersburg-based LGBT group believes the bill is "absurd, unnecessary and mean-spirited."
Speaking to Local10.com from his office in Tallahassee, Artiles said House Bill 583 was born out of a Miami-Dade County ordinance passed in December that adds protections for transgender people.
"The whole purpose of this bill from its inception is safety," Artiles said.
Artiles said the Miami-Dade County ordinance is so poorly written that it allows for a man to walk into a women's shower and watch them disrobe. He said that while the law is "well-intentioned," the "execution is terribly wrong."
"I don't want a man … to walk into a women's bathroom because he can," Artiles said.
Artiles said the bill is limited to public facilities and allows businesses the right to choose if they want to have unisex bathrooms.
Enforcement of the proposed law is a concern for Harper.
"Are people going to have to show their anatomy before they go to the bathroom just to make sure they're going to the right one?" Harper asked.
Harper said he believes Artiles has a "profound misunderstanding of who transgender people are."
Artiles said the bill isn't so much about the transgender community -- praising Florida International University for opening a transgender bathroom -- as it is about public safety.
"I think that's all in his head," Harper said.
Harper said Equality Florida has no specific plans to take action and is instead focused on passing a proposed statewide civil rights law that would include gender identity.
"We hope that cooler, better informed legislators will not give this bill much attention," Harper said.
Despite the outrage, Artiles isn't backing down from his position.
"Your anatomy will dictate where you go to the bathroom," he said.
If passed, the law would take effect July 1.
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