Arizona bathroom gender bill revised to give business owners immunity

Businesses would have immunity for refusing service
2013-03-26T00:00:00Z Arizona bathroom gender bill revised to give business owners immunityHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
March 26, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - Hoping to blunt opposition, a Fountain Hills Republican on Monday scaled back his measure aimed at who can use which bathroom.

The new proposal by Rep. John Kavanagh scraps the original idea of making it a crime for someone to use a restroom, shower or locker room that does not match that person's gender. Violators could have gone to jail for up to six months.

Instead, the new version of SB 1045 would give business owners immunity from civil and criminal prosecution if they turn away someone from a restroom based on the belief of the owner or manager that person should not be using that facility. A hearing is set for Wednesday in the House Appropriations Committee.

The change did not stop a group from beginning a recall drive Monday against Kavanagh.

Brianna Pantilione, spokeswoman for Raise the Bar Arizona, said Kavanagh's move aimed at gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered individuals is just part of the issue. She said he also has a record of attacking groups - including the Arizona Students Association, of which she is an officer - rather than working to limit the role of government.

The fight surrounds the 5-3 vote last month by the Phoenix City Council to extend its anti-discrimination laws to protect those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. Opponents contend the measure could result in businesses being prosecuted for refusing to let transgendered individuals who are anatomically male use the women's restroom.

Kavanagh's first proposal linked the person's state-recognized gender with the right to enter an area reserved for men or women. That quickly resulted in questions about whether some people might be forced to carry around a birth certificate.

The revised version scraps all that.

Now, he said, "we're simply saying that the store owner has the right to decide what type of restroom, unisexual or one sex only, and has the right to say to somebody 'You can't go in there,' without being locked up by the city of Phoenix and sued by the person denied service," Kavanagh said.

He said a business owner would decide who gets to use what restroom "the same way they've always done it," by challenging the person going in. Kavanagh said that preserves protections for those who may be concerned who else is sharing a restroom.

"We don't want to have young girls in women's locker rooms being exposed to basically biological men in a state of undress," he said.

Kavanagh said he is not worried about the recall effort. Organizers need 16,920 valid signatures by July 23 to force an election.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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