In ‘bathroom bill,’ a test of transgender equality – Katy Bergen March 28, 2015

Somewhere off the phone line, his child is crying, and Frank Artiles takes a moment to attend to her. The Florida representative and Miami resident has just returned from an economic development trip to Peru, and he says he is tired.

The first half of the legislative session has just concluded, and since early February, when Artiles introduced a House bill that would prohibit people from using single-sex facilities that do not correspond with their biological gender, the Florida “bathroom bill” has made headlines.

Artiles, 41, says he keeps up with the “blogs,” the ones where politicians and human rights groups decry HB 583 as discriminatory, unenforceable and potentially illegal because it would override protections extended to transgender people using public bathrooms throughout the state.

But Artiles, whose bill has passed two House committees and is slated to be heard by a third, remains steadfast in his conviction that broad anti-discrimination codes that allow people to use single-sex facilities based on gender identity threaten public safety. What Artiles and those fighting his bill would agree on is that Florida HB 583 has become emotionally charged, inspiring activism from New College of Florida to Tallahassee by those who say the bill targets a diverse transgender population fighting for equal rights on the state and federal level.

Which bathroom?

Two weeks ago, St. Petersburg resident Jamey Grey hopped in a car with two friends, drove to Tallahassee and lobbied for the first time against a bill that she says “reeks of bigotry, prejudice and people afraid of the unknown.”

“I jumped at the chance,” said Grey, a woman who was born biologically male. “Because I feel so strongly that I am not different than you are.”