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Anti-HERO Sentiment Alive and Well in Florida

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Trans Floridians could face jail under proposed bill
by Bradley Donalson

The jury may still be in deliberations on the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, but the same arguments against HERO are also rearing their heads in Florida. The Single-Sex Public Facilities Act was filed earlier this month and is now in committee in the Florida House of Representatives by Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami. If passed, this bill would restrict use of all public bathrooms designated for a particular sex to people who were assigned that sex at birth. To do otherwise would be a misdemeanor offense and punishable with up to one year in prison.

Artiles is echoing the anti-HERO crowd here by trumpeting about “public safety” even though nobody has ever been able to furnish any kind of proven public safety concern in regards to treating transgender people with dignity and respect. Artiles defended his discriminatory position in the Miami Herald by saying, “A man such as myself can walk into the bathroom at LA Fitness while women are taking showers, changing, and simply walk in there. Someone can say, ‘What are you doing there?’ Under the [Miami-Dade County antidiscrimination] ordinance, I don’t have to respond. It’s subjective. If I feel like a woman that day, I can be allowed to be in that locker room. I don’t know about you, but I find that disturbing.” What I find disturbing is the fact that he seemingly has no understanding of trans people and the struggles that they undergo. I can’t really say I’m surprised though, considering that same ignorance is quite obvious here in Houston and in Texas as a whole.

On his Facebook page, Artiles claims, “It is a matter of privacy/public safety and not intended to discriminate against transgender or transsexuals. However, criminals, sexual deviants, pedophiles, and voyeurs will take advantage of the loophole the local ordinance has created giving them protection under the law.” Of course, when you look at the facts for other places that have passed nondiscrimination ordinances, you find that “public safety” is completely unaffected by the “loophole” Artiles is so afraid of. In March last year, mediamatters.org complied the statements of experts from 12 states debunking and condemning this concept. All 15 experts agreed that protecting trans citizens in no way raised the incidents of criminals attacking or harassing people in bathrooms. It brings into question what exactly the people who oppose these nondiscrimination ordinances think they are protecting people from.

One company is protesting in the best possible way, giving out all-gender signs to Florida companies. SmartSign specializes in making clear, affordable, high-quality signs for anyone who might need one. It started out by donating all-gender signs to schools, churches, and nonprofits, but has recently decided to expand its donations to for-profit businesses. In the same spirit as the numerous people who have testified in favor of HERO, people everywhere recognize when bigotry and discrimination are being enshrined into law at the expense of the fair treatment of citizens, and they will not stand for it. In a press release, SmartSign’s CEO Blair Brewster says, “Our message is simple: we’re for all people. No one should be punished for using the facilities. The hope in passing this memo to the media is that more businesses will feel empowered to serve their full range of customers, no matter what bathroom they use.”

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Bradley Donalson

Bradley Donalson is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.
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