Restroom bill will be revamped, Representative John Kavanagh say

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Restroom bill will be revamped, Representative John Kavanagh says

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By Dustin Gardiner
The Arizona Republic

The state lawmaker who sponsored a bill that would have made it illegal for many transgender Arizonans to use the public bathroom of their choice has gutted the measure.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said he plans to introduce a new version of Senate Bill 1045 this week, removing any potential criminal penalties for transgender residents who enter the restroom of the opposite sex.

His original proposal, which drew national media attention, would have made it a misdemeanor for a person to use a bathroom, locker room or dressing room that's not designated for the sex listed on his or her birth certificate. Violators would have been guilty of disorderly conduct.

Kavanagh's move sparked a recall effort by opponents, who say his measure would have extended the government's reach, not shrink it as he had pledged.

On Monday, Kavanagh said he had decided to scrap his original approach. Instead, he wants to take government entirely out of the business of regulating bathroom privileges.

He said the new proposal will prohibit local governments from passing ordinances that could subject businesses to lawsuits or criminal penalties if they forbid a transgender person from using a restroom.

A House Appropriations Committee hearing on the legislation has been scheduled for 2p.m. on Wednesday, and dozens of activists are expected to attend.

The bill is a rebuke to Phoenix leaders, who voted last month to broadly outlaw discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents.

The protections apply in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations, such as restaurants and hotels.

City attorneys have said the ordinance could extend to bathroom use in some cases.

For instance, a person with male genitalia who identifies as a woman might have a discrimination claim if the facility bars that person from using the restroom, and vice versa.

Kavanagh said he changed his mind about the original bill after it drew criticism from transgender advocates across the country and some of his fellow lawmakers, who felt it unnecessarily extended the reach of state government into bathroom stalls.

"I'm just saying, ‘You know what, that's not government's concern,'" Kavanagh told The Arizona Republic. "We're simply going to go right back to where it was the day before Phoenix passed its overreaching ordinance with respect to showers, dressing rooms and bathrooms."

Kavanagh submitted the proposal as a "strike everything" amendment to an existing bill, meaning it strikes out the original language and uses its shell to advance an entirely different proposal.

Rebecca Wininger, president of the gay-rights watchdog Equality Arizona, said Kavanagh's new proposal does nothing to alleviate her group's concerns. She said it still singles out a group of people for discrimination.

"It's no better to deny anyone the basic right of being able to use the restroom," Wininger said. "I really don't think there's anything behind it except for fear and possibly hate."

Supporters of Phoenix's move said Kavanagh's bill is a solution in search of a problem. They point to the 16 states and more than 166 cities and counties that have passed similar laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, which includes those who identify as a different sex than they were born.

Kavanagh's proposal is a response to the concerns of some critics who said Phoenix's ordinance opened the door for sexual predators to share bathrooms with women and girls. They labeled it the "bathroom bill," a nickname gay-rights advocates said was an inflammatory distraction.

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