Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago: Bill would complicate going potty

Florida Rep. Frank Artiles
Florida Rep. Frank Artiles

State Rep. Frank Artiles is giving new meaning to our mamas’ warning: Niños, use the bathroom before you leave the house!

The Miami Republican has filed a joke of a bill that would make it illegal for any of us to use a public bathroom that doesn’t correspond to our biological gender designation at birth. That means ladies who duck into the men’s restroom when there’s a long line at theirs could be charged with a misdemeanor and arrested. I’m in trouble.

And if a guy were to show up and feel threatened by the lady’s use of his toilet, he could sue in civil court for damages and make the offending woman pay his attorney fees and court costs. ’Cause you know, if someone can’t make money on it, what good is legislation?

Same rules apply to the men.

God help the tipsy guy who plows through the wrong door in one of those restaurants that get all artsy with the door labels and you can’t tell which is which, especially under the spell of too many mojitos. If he ends up in the women’s bathroom, he, too, would be breaking the Potty Where Your Anatomy Belongs Law; he too could be sued for inflicting suffering with his presence.

Who knew going to the bathroom could get so complicated in the 21st Century?

But as drafted, HB 583 regulations would apply to bathrooms in every sphere of public life — eateries, theaters, stadiums, schools, workplaces, malls — anywhere you need to use the restroom. I imagine the state will assign an attendant to search for evidence under skirts and in pants of lawful anatomy-to-bathroom match.

Artiles didn’t return my call, nor answer questions I posed in an email. But a staffer told me the bill was designed to keep “a hypothetical 200-pound heterosexual creep” from hanging out in the women’s locker room or bathroom at a gym, a spa, a club, the beach — claiming his right to be there as a transgender person because “I feel like a woman.”

“It’s the predator we’re concerned with,” the staffer said. “Now, it’s harder to prosecute them" (because supposedly they may use being transgender as a defense). “It gives them a loophole."

Aren’t creeps of every kind and with every excuse in the book already covered under lewd and lascivious behavior laws? Aren’t Republicans supposed to be in favor of smaller government and less regulation?

If Artiles convinces fellow legislators that the state’s public bathrooms need special law enforcement protection for a non-existent hypothetical problem and the bill passes, state government would reign as the supreme regulator of bathroom protocol, overriding any city or county legislation in the matter.

So, put two and two together, and HB 583 is what you might call revenge legislation. Artiles is trying to pass through the state Legislature what he couldn’t get done at the local level in Miami-Dade.

When the county commission took up in December an ordinance protecting transgender people from discrimination, Artiles sent a staffer to speak in favor of an amendment proposed by Commissioner Esteban Bovo that addressed the bathroom-use situation as Artiles does in this bill. The county commission rejected the amendment, passing the historic Human Rights Ordinance without it 8-3.

Artiles’ staffer says there’s no payback intended. The legislator only seeks “uniformity in the state.” But that’s the standard excuse the Republican-dominated Legislature has used to pass all-county encompassing legislation favored by conservatives — such as pro-NRA gun laws — and shove them down the troat of cities and counties with predominantly Democratic populations like Miami-Dade and Broward.

The transgender community is rightfully worried that Artiles’ bill would require transgender women to use the men’s bathroom and vice versa because, in the bill, gender is defined by “a person’s biological sex…at birth.” Parents also are worried they may have to send their small children to public restrooms by themselves to comply with the law.

Artiles doesn’t seem worried about the problems his “plumbing” bill may cause everyone. He told BuzzFeed News that using a public restroom is a choice.

“People are not forced to go the restroom,” he said. “They choose to go to the restroom.”

So boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, listen to your mother. Pee before you leave the house. Don’t consume too many liquids. And if you do, make sure to use the bathroom the Legislature designates for you, or there may be one with your name on it in a jail cell.

Better yet, learn to hold it, in case his colleagues don’t flush Artiles’ bill where it belongs: down the toilet.

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