PHOENIX — Arizona lawmakers delayed a scheduled debate over equal access rights after dozens of transgender people flooded the Arizona House of Representatives Wednesday to fight a proposed law that would have made it illegal for them to use the bathroom of their preferred gender.
Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills, Ariz.) said he would delay his bill that seeks to make it a misdemeanor for anyone to use a public facility not associated with their birth gender.
Advocates say the measure would be the toughest standard in the U.S. for transgender people and bathroom use, requiring Arizona residents to use the restroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate.
One local TV station has dubbed it the “Show Me Your Papers Before You Go Potty” bill, a reference to the Arizona Legislature’s sweeping 2010 immigration law.
In Arizona, where Republicans control state government, Kavanagh said he was outraged by Phoenix’s effort to increase protections for transgender people. The state’s capital city passed a human rights ordinance last month prohibiting gender identity discrimination at public accommodations.
Kavanagh’s proposal would make it a misdemeanor for a person to use a public restroom, bathroom, shower, bath, dressing room or locker room associated with a gender other than what’s on his or her birth certificate.
Penalties include the possibility of six months in jail.
Phoenix city councilman Tom Simplot, who is openly gay and pushed the city’s human rights ordinance, said if Kavanagh’s proposal becomes law, it would criminalize the “very nature” of being transgender.
Among those waiting to speak out against the bill on Wednesday was Erica Keppler. She was born a man, but doesn’t feel comfortable in men’s bathrooms or locker rooms with her earrings, long hair and feminine clothing.
If the measure becomes law, Keppler said, she will be forced to go to jail or expose herself as a transgender woman each time she uses a public bathroom, dressing room or locker room, which could potentially make her vulnerable to threats from men unsettled by her appearance.
“Most transgender people try to slip through public places without being noticed,” Keppler said. “This will turn us into criminals.”
Masen Davis, executive director for the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco, said the proposed ban would target people who look different, regardless if they are transgender or not.
“No one should have to live in a world where they have to show their papers to pee,” Davis said.
The hearing has been rescheduled for next week.