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Lawmakers pass trans bathroom bill; DeSantis signing expected


TALLAHASSEE — Nearing the end of a legislative session filled with debates about transgender issues, Florida lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill aimed at requiring people to use bathrooms that line up with their sex assigned at birth.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 26-12 to approve the bill (HB 1521), with the House following a short time later by passing it in a 80-36 vote. The measure is ready to go to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign it.

Democrats fought the bill, arguing it would subject transgender people to harassment and questioning how it would be enforced.

“Where is the dignity?” Rep. Marie Woodson, D-Hollywood, said. “Where is the respect for another human being?”

But bill sponsor Rachel Plakon, R-Lake Mary, pointed to history showing “that separate facilities work.”

“Vote yes for common sense,” Plakon told House members.

Florida is among numerous GOP-controlled states that have moved forward this year with proposals targeted at transgender people.

Lawmakers last month gave final approval to a bill (SB 1438) that would block venues from admitting children to “adult live performances.” While the bill doesn’t specifically mention drag shows, it came after DeSantis’ administration took steps such as filing a complaint against the Hyatt Regency Miami hotel for hosting a “Drag Queen Christmas” event in December.

The House and Senate also are trying to work out details of a proposal (SB 254) that would bar doctors from providing treatments such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy to transgender children.

The bill passed Wednesday would apply to the use of bathrooms at facilities such as public schools, colleges, universities, state and local-government buildings, prisons and jails. An earlier version of the bill also would have applied to health-care facilities and businesses such as restaurants, but those places were taken out of the final version.

In the bill, lawmakers included an overall finding that “females and males should be provided restrooms and changing facilities for their exclusive use, respective to their sex, in order to maintain public safety, decency, decorum and privacy.”

But opponents disputed that transgender people pose a risk, with Rep. Johanna Lopez, D-Orlando, saying the bill targets an “imaginary enemy.”

“It does nothing to make Floridians safer,” Lopez said.

Under the bill, people who enter bathrooms designated for the “opposite sex” could face trespassing charges. The bill includes exceptions for situations involving bathroom use by children under age 12, seniors and people with developmental disabilities.

It defines a female as a “person belonging, at birth, to the biological sex which has the specific reproductive role of producing eggs.” It defines a male as “a person belonging, at birth, to the biological sex which has the specific reproductive role of producing sperm.”

Wednesday’s votes were along almost-straight party lines, with Sen. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, Rep. Paula Stark, R-St. Cloud, and Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, R-Saint Johns, joining Democrats in voting against the measure.