FLORIDA - A controversial bill in the Florida House that could send a person to jail for a year for using the wrong bathroom will never make it out of the Senate; that’s according to one Central Florida senator.
House Bill 583 would make it a first-degree misdemeanor for a person of one sex to enter into a single-sex facility designated for a person of the opposite sex.
Sen. Darren Soto (D-Orlando) says he has not seen any support in the Florida Senate for a companion bill to the House bill.
“I think it’s an embarrassment that we have to be debating an issue like this and it sends the wrong message in regard to equality in this state,” says Sen. Soto. “We’re a state that prides itself on welcoming people and we should be debating things that are far more consistent with that.”
House Bill 583 was filed by Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami) and on Wednesday passed its first committee with a party-line vote among members of the Civil Justice Subcommittee. The bill must still clear the Government Operations Subcommittee and the Judiciary Committee before making it to the House floor.
Rep. Artiles says the bill was filed in response to an ordinance approved by Miami-Dade County commissioners. In 2014, county commissioners voted to update their human rights ordinance to include housing and employment; however, the focus of much of the debate centered on the use of public restrooms. The ordinance allows people to choose their own restroom based on their own self-identification. The move by Miami-Dade came four months after Orlando passed a similar anti-discrimination measure.
“I believe that criminals and males will use this law as the cover of law to walk into a women’s locker room, not to conduct criminal or lewd and lascivious and crimes that are covered in Florida statute, but just to push the envelope but just basically to hang out,” said Rep. Artiles on Wednesday to the House Civil Justice Subcommittee.
In the Florida Senate, a companion bill (SB 1464) has been filed by Sen. Charles Dean (R-Inverness).
“The predominant discussion in the Senate is that this is an embarrassing bill,” says Sen. Soto. “It’s an affront to people of all walks of life when we start singling out people.”