PHOENIX – Faced with an outcry from advocacy groups, an Arizona lawmaker has changed his proposed legislation that would have made it a crime for a transgendered person to use a bathroom other than his or her birth sex.
The new bill by state Rep. John Kavanagh ditches that effort and instead seeks to shield businesses from civil or criminal liability if they ban people from restrooms that don't match their birth sex. The House committee Kavanagh chairs began meeting at midafternoon on Wednesday, but the so-called "bathroom bill" wasn't expected to be considered until Wednesday evening.
Meanwhile, the hearing room was packed with people from the LGBT community who opposed the bill.
Patty Medway, a transgendered woman who was born a man, said she's been using female bathrooms for years without a problem. She called on Kavanagh to back away from his effort.
"I've been using washrooms for 15 years and I don't want to be discriminated against, and I'm scared to go to a male washroom," she said.
The conservative Republican said he listened to the criticism of what one local television station dubbed the "Show Me Your Papers Before You Go Potty" bill.
The revised bill is designed to shield businesses from lawsuits while protecting people from being exposed to what he described as "naked men in women's locker rooms and showers," Kavanagh said. It doesn't prohibit businesses from allowing transgender people from using the restroom they want.
To Kavanagh's point that he worried about young girls being exposed to transgendered people in restrooms, Medway said that just doesn't happen.
"In ladies washrooms, they're all stalls, they are segmented," she said.
The changes to his bill don't make rights groups feel any better.
"These sort of tabloid attacks around bathroom behavior are largely overblown," said Andre Banks, a New York-based spokesman for All Out, a group that advocates for LGBT rights. "Often these sort of great fears that people bring up never come to fruition. But what is very real is the kind of violence, discrimination and intimidation that transgender people face all across this country."
Rep. Stefanie Mach, a Tucson Democrat on Kavanagh's Appropriations Committee, called the proposal "an unnecessary response."
"It's just over the top," she said.