As an anti-transgender bill advances in the Florida House, the UCF SGA Senate has passed a resolution in opposition.
House Bill 583, also known as the "Bathroom Bill" proposed by Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami), prohibits use of a single-sex public restroom by anyone who is not of that biological sex. Advocates and LGBTQ+ community members alike are up in arms over this bill, citing it as transphobic and unaccommodating to gender identity and expression.
Artiles, however, said the law's intention was not to be transphobic.
"The goal of HB 583 is not to discriminate against any group or individual, but rather to ensure the public's safety in the state of Florida," Artiles said in a blog post. "My intention is to prevent criminals, sexual predators and sex offenders from being able to hide behind the law due to the overbroad, vague and subjective language passed by some counties across the state. My priority is to create uniformity in our laws and protect the safety and privacy of every resident and visitor in the state."
Punishment for violating this law, according to the bill, could be classified as a first-degree misdemeanor.
Violators would also be subject to civil action, citing damages against the individual who would be "lawfully" using the facility.
The owners and operators of those facilities, in this case UCF, would also face consequences for having not prevented the violation or not having taken measures after learning of the incorrect use.
The resolution in opposition made its way through the Student Senate and passed its final reading March 19, solidifying SGA's stance.
A stipulation of the resolution was that it be sent to various political leaders, including UCF representatives for the House and Senate as well as the Speaker of the Senate and committee members who would see the bill.
For Oliver Oster, a senior interdisciplinary studies major who identifies outside of the gender binary, bathrooms are hard to come by as it is.
"[The bill] really upsets me because it's just one more thing they're holding over us, invalidating us with. It hurts. It's hard to think about, especially feeling like I have no say when my own community is being attacked. Sometimes I have to put it out of my mind, or avoid going to actions because it's really been hitting home for me," Oster said. "As it is, I tend to avoid public restrooms unless they're single-stall, designated 'gender-neutral,' or I just sneak into one or the other of the gendered ones if it's an emergency."
UCF Sen. Tyler Yeargain, a junior political science major, said that he was encouraged to propose a resolution in the SGA Senate after seeing how the bill would negatively impact UCF and its transgender students.
"[The bill is] inherently transphobic because people who are male to female or female to male are not biologically what they actually are," Yeargain said.
If the bill passes, Yeargain said it would put UCF in the position of going against its own nondiscrimination policy, which protects individuals from discrimination based on gender identity and expression.
While gender nonconforming citizens may be required to use the bathroom of their biological sex, gender-neutral bathrooms are still available.
The bill exempts gender-neutral bathrooms from the policy, but also does not require an establishment to maintain a gender-neutral bathroom.
UCF currently has 16 gender-neutral bathrooms spread out on campus and the adjacent Research Park. There is also one in Central Florida Hillel in NorthView.
As of March 19, the bill is still in the Senate Judiciary Committee — the final step before going before the full House.
Adam Rhodes is the Entertainment Editor at the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @byadamrhodes or email him at AdamR@CentralFloridaFuture.com.