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Arizona House panel advances anti-transgender "bathroom bill"

PHOENIX — An Arizona House committee has voted to advance a new version of a bill that previously would have barred transgender people from using public restrooms not associated with their birth gender.

Faced with an outcry from advocacy groups, Republican Rep. John Kavanagh changed his proposed legislation that would have made it a crime for a transgender person to use a restroom other than his or her birth sex.

Instead, the revised “bathroom bill” is designed to shield businesses from lawsuits while protecting people from being exposed to what he described as “naked men in women’s locker rooms and showers,” Kavanagh said.

It doesn’t prohibit businesses from allowing transgender people from using the restroom they want.

The committee heard hours of testimony from transgender men and woman who complained that even Kavanagh’s revised bill was based on fear.

The bill advanced on a 7-4 party-line vote as the crowd broke out in chants of “shame, shame, shame.”

Patty Medway, a transgender woman who was born a man, said she’s been using female bathrooms for years without a problem. She called on Kavanagh to back away from his effort.

“I’ve been using washrooms for 15 years and I don’t want to be discriminated against, and I’m scared to go to a male washroom,” she said.

The changes to his bill don’t make rights groups feel any better.

“These sort of tabloid attacks around bathroom behavior are largely overblown,” said Andre Banks, a New York-based spokesman for All Out, a group that advocates for LGBT rights.

“Often these sort of great fears that people bring up never come to fruition. But what is very real is the kind of violence, discrimination and intimidation that transgender people face all across this country,” said Banks.

Kavanagh’s bill seeks to undermine an anti-discrimination law in Phoenix — the lawmaker said recently that he was outraged by Phoenix’s effort to increase protections for transgender people.

The state’s capital city passed a human rights ordinance last month prohibiting gender identity discrimination at public accommodations.

One local TV station has dubbed it the “Show Me Your Papers Before You Go Potty” bill, a reference to the Arizona Legislature’s sweeping 2010 immigration law.

Rep. Stefanie Mach, a Tucson Democrat on Kavanagh’s Appropriations Committee, called the proposal “an unnecessary response.”

“It’s just over the top,” she said.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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