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Arizona could make it a misdemeanor to use the wrong bathroom
March 20, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
Transgender issues continue to make the news. The latest story on the wire is that Arizona's state legislature is considering a bill that would make it a criminal offense for transgender people to use a bathroom for a gender other than the one listed on their birth certificates. The bill would make using the wrong bathroom a misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to six months in jail.
I don't know how such a bill would be enforced or who will be keeping track of which person uses which bathroom. People who are personally uncomfortable with sharing the facilities with a transgender co-worker or fellow student can probably arrange to quietly leave and wait outside the bathroom until the transgender person has exited. Still, advocacy groups are predictably outraged.
If it passes, this is another law that is probably headed for the Supreme Court. The question is probably whether it violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution to refuse transgendered people the right to use a public bathroom for the gender they identify as. Some states, like Minnesota and Massachusetts, seem to be saying yes; others, like Arizona, are saying no.
The issue is one that affects schools, colleges and employers as well as businesses and public access facilities. As far as I know, there's still a lawsuit in progress by the Colorado family against the school that refused to let their 6-year-old (born a boy, living as a girl) use the girl's bathroom. The school let the child dress as a girl, referred to the child using a feminine pronoun and have offered to let the child use a staff bathroom or the bathroom in the nurse's office instead. The parents have said their kid is not sick, not an adult and not a boy and should be allowed to use the girl's bathroom. The school administration has refused, apparently out of concern for what might happen when the kids are older and a child with male genitalia is using the girl's bathroom or locker room.
Some school districts are also being put on notice that they will have to let transgender kids have equal access to athletic teams, as well as to bathrooms and locker rooms for the gender they identify as. I could see that being problematic in some sports, where an adolescent who is biologically male could have greater strength or speed than the girls on the team. That doesn't sound fair to the other kids.
It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court rules.
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