The Battle for Transgendered Rights Starts in the Bathroom

As if our transgendered brothers and sisters don’t deal with enough bullshit in life, welcome to Gainesville, Florida, which the AP describes as “a generally gay-friendly university city surrounded by staunchly conservative north Florida.” Now, some might disagree. Last January the city commission approved a measure to allow transgendered men and women to choose which ever public restroom — male or female — they identified with, and the ruling takes effect this month. You can imagine the outrage it’s sparked among conservative and religious types, which has led them to produce this sickening ad, which tries to scare the public into thinking child molesters are now free to follow your sons and daughters into public bathrooms.

Gainesville, which is home to an estimated 100 transgendered residents, will soon be the site of a March 24 ballot measure to have the bathroom provision repealed. And that’s just what something called Citizens for Good Public Policy, would like to see happen. They’re the ones who produced the commercial and collected 6,000 signatures to put the bathroom issue back up for vote.

But Citizens for Good Public Policy wants to go one step further with their legalese, and ban the city from enacting any additional protections beyond the federal level. Which means race, age, relgiion, origin, sex, martial status, and disability will remain protected, while protections for sexual orientation and gender identity would be banned. Reports the AP:

Cain Davis, chairman of Citizens for Good Public Policy, said the issue is about regulating a “government gone wild” and ensuring public safety, charging that sexual predators could now simply enter a women’s restroom claiming to be a transgender individual.

“We know when men go into women’s restrooms, bad things can happen,” Davis said.

Interested in reaching Mr. Davis and his cohorts? His publicly lists his contact information here.


Back in July 2008, Davis wrote this op-ed opposing the provision:

The Gainesville City Commission passed an ordinance in January 2008 which affords any man the right to utilize a female restroom and vice-versa. Specifically, the ordinance reads “”gender identity” means an inner sense of being a specific gender, or the expression of a gender identity by verbal statement, appearance, or mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.” The City’s Legal and Equal Opportunity staffs have confirmed that an individual merely has to articulate an inner sense of being a particular sex to be legally protected under this ordinance. It must be noted that this definition includes the hundreds of registered sexual offenders/predators who lives in and visits our community.

This badly written public policy places our local business community in an especially vulnerable position in regards to various provisions of this ordinance. The ambiguity and potential costs to business owners becomes very obvious after a close review of the ordinance. For example, since the passing of the ordinance there have been several reported incidents of men utilizing female restrooms/shower facilities. If an owner demands that the male depart the facility, then the owner will assuredly have a complaint filed against him/her by the male who has been given the legal right to enter a female restroom by the City Commission. On the other hand, women and children who are victims of this shared facilities concept may also seek damages through the courts. In the best case scenario, if the business owner prevails in both cases they would have dedicated staff time, secured and paid for legal counsel, incurred negative media exposure may have limited or no finances to continue operating their business.

This ordinance gives City representatives the authority to determine if a business can afford to make costly structural and operational changes to the business. For example, the City Commission was asked during the hearing of the ordinance if a local business owner has a male and female restroom, but installs a unisex restroom at the request of a transgendered individual could that business owner require the transgender person to utilize the newly built and designated restroom? To the surprise of the citizens, the City Attorney’s staff responded by stating that “A refusal of the employer to allow such individual to utilize their gender identity consistent bathroom, by forcing the individual to use a unisex bathroom, would appear to be a violation of the ordinance”. Additionally, City representatives can literally determine if a business owner has enough profit, saving, etc. to make expenditures to accommodate a request by an individual or citizen activist, even when the business owner believes his/her available financial assets are insufficient to make the requested accommodation.

There has been an active effort by several City Commissioners to deny the above facts, falsely characterizing those opposed to the ordinance as being opposed to the equal rights of a selected group of citizens. However, this is not true; this ordinance is opposed because it is bad public policy, which places women, children, business owners and those it is intended to protect in a vulnerable position. Business owners are urged to support the efforts to repeal this ordinance or prepare to expend thousands of dollars defending their rights to responsibly operate their business. Please visit citizensforgoodpublicpolicy.org to review the ordinance or contact Cain Davis at 871-4555 for written documentation from the City’s staff regarding the facts presented in this document.

Which was countered by city commission Craig Lowe:

Gainesville has successfully asserted itself as a progressive city that values inclusiveness, yet both our humanity as a city and the image we project are at risk of being indelibly tarnished by an antigay charter amendment campaign that would remove antidiscrimination laws covering both sexual orientation and gender identity. This effort to legalize discrimination in Gainesville has already subjected our community to unfounded fear-mongering to promote intolerance.

Gainesville has joined 170 localities and 20 states that do not allow discrimination based on sexual orientation and has also joined 104 localities and 14 states that do not permit discrimination with respect to gender identity. The jurisdictions covering gender identity comprise 39 percent of the population of the United States. There is absolutely no evidence of safety issues or burden to the private sector where these important protections have been enacted.

In fact, 433 of the Fortune 500 companies have policies in place covering sexual orientation and 153 cover gender identity. These companies value inclusiveness. When they seek new locations, they want all their employees to be welcomed by forward thinking communities.

This positive phenomenon is most pronounced in the sectors of the economy that produce the highest incomes for employees and most beneficial economic impacts on communities, such as biotechnology and information sciences. Richard Florida has documented this positive effect in his recent works. We in Gainesville have positioned ourselves to compete in this regard alongside peer cities such as Lexington, Kentucky; Boulder, Colorado; Ann Arbor and East Lansing, Michigan; Bloomington, Indiana; and Champaign-Urbana, Illinois — all cities that protect their gay, lesbian and transgender citizens.

Yet a mean-spirited antigay charter amendment campaign, of which we have already gotten an inflammatory sample, would undo all of this and place Gainesville on the ever shorter list of places that embrace intolerance.

A sense of fear and urgency in the lesbian, gay, and transgender community has ensued, as the ability to fully participate in the life and fabric of our city are under attack. The character of a group of our citizens could be maligned further in utterly false, shocking rhetoric and images in the course of a bitter referendum campaign that would divide both citizens and businesses.

This is a question of how we wish to treat our neighbor, and how we wish to project our city to the rest of the world as we seek to progress economically for the good of our entire community. For these reasons we ask all Gainesville residents to decline to sign the antigay petition and to oppose the charter amendment.