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Artiles' transgender bathroom bill passes 2nd committee, gains GOP opponent

A bill that would limit transgender Floridians to using the bathroom corresponding with the sex on their driver's license cleared its second hurdle in the Florida House on Tuesday.

The bill (H.B. 583) is intended to promote public safety by banning members of the opposite sex from entering a bathroom, its sponsor, Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, has argued.

But he's faced fierce criticism from activists who say the bill amounts to discrimination and would create new public safety risks by forcing people who present themselves publicly as male to use the women's room and vice versa.

In its latest committee stop Tuesday, the bill was approved by the House Government Operations Subcommittee in a 7-4 vote, with opposition from three Democrats and Republican Rep. Ken Roberson of Port Charlotte, who said he worries about unintended consequences.

This came about two weeks after the bill's first hearing in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, and as before, the hearing was marked by passionate, emotional testimony on both sides, which lasted for almost two hours.

Some, like Jean-David Parlier, a transgender man, said passing the bill would harm public safety and urged lawmakers to consider transgender people as not so different from themselves.

"The passage of this bill will in effect require all women, millions of women in the state of Florida, to allow men in their bathroom," he said. "I am concerned about the safety standards."

Meanwhile, others agreed with Artiles' public safety argument, arguing that it's in the public's interest to pass the bill.

"It's a prottective thing, it is not a discrimination thing," said Kenneth Jensen, a pastor. "There is a big difference between protection and restriction."

And in the end, Artiles repeated the argument he's made several times: His concern is a Miami-Dade County ordinance for transgender rights, which he says is overly broad. It's an argument that's convinced his colleagues in two committees so far.

But the companion bill in the Senate (S.B. 1464), sponsored by Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, hasn't been put on a calendar yet.