US lawmaker backs off transgender bathroom bill

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Associated Press

Posted on March 28, 2013 at 1:33 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 28 at 1:33 AM

PHOENIX (AP) — A U.S. lawmaker who wanted to make it a crime for a transgendered person to use the bathroom for a sex that differs from their gender at birth changed the bill after national outcry, but colleagues approved a version that protects business owners sympathetic to the idea.

A crowd of protesters broke out in chants of "Shame, shame, shame" as an Arizona panel advanced the bill.

The new bill seeks to shield businesses from civil or criminal liability if they ban people from restrooms that don't match their birth sex.

Republican Rep. John Kavanagh's bill was prompted by the recent passage of a Phoenix anti-discrimination ordinance that critics said prevented businesses from keeping transgendered people out of locker rooms, showers and bathrooms.

Kavanagh said it would expose little children to "naked men in women's locker rooms and showers."

A parade of witnesses Wednesday, many transgendered, said such thinking was not only fear-based but wrong.

Claire Swinford, who was born a man but identifies as a woman, said being dressed as a woman puts her at physical risk from being attacked by a man while trying to use a men's restroom.

"What your bill attempts to do is sacrifice my personal safety for somebody else's sense of discomfort," Swinford said.

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

Democrats on the panel all voted against advancing the bill.

"Frankly. I think this is an embarrassment to our state,' said Rep. Stefanie Mach.

Kavanagh began the hearing by telling the crowd his original bill went too far.

"What I'm doing is pre-empting these cities from prosecuting businesses that say they want separate (facilities)," he said.

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Associated Press writer Bob Christie contributed.

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