Tallahassee, Florida -- A bill that would make it illegal for a person to use a bathroom, dressing room or locker room designated for the opposite sex cleared its first hurdle Wednesday.
The House Civil Justice Subcommittee passed HB 583, after strong opposition was voiced by transgender advocates.
Introduced last month by Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami-Dade, the bill makes it a first-degree misdemeanor if a person born male purposefully enters a women's room, and a person born female goes into a men's room. It's pitched as a safety and privacy measure for people using same-sex bathrooms.
"This ridiculous legislation seeks to criminalize the transgender community," said Rep. Janet Cruz. "Are we really going to be known as the state that allowed such a hateful bill become a law?"
The bill says such facilities open people up molestation, rape and voyeurism.
"There is an expectation of privacy in single-sex public facilities," the bill reads. "Users of single-sex public facilities reasonably expect not to be exposed to individuals of the other sex while using those facilities."
Cruz was joined by Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, and House Minority Leader Mark Pafford. The American Civil Liberties Union has also voiced its opposition.
Gina Duncan, a transgender woman who is also the transgender director for Equality Florida, said she was repulsed at the "dehumanizing" bill.
"This bill invents a problem that simply doesn't exist," Duncan said. "If anything, we want and need to be protected from undue attention and harassment and not be told we're committing a crime if someone thinks we're in the wrong place."