Metro Weekly

Arizona Republican compares nonbinary individuals to someone identifying “as a chicken”

John Fillmore insists bill is meant to provide "clarity in government documents" by barring gender-neutral markers on state IDs

arizona, lawmaker, republican, non-binary
Arizona State Rep. John Fillmore – Photo: Arizona House of Representatives.

An Arizona Republican lawmaker is facing an ethics complaint after comparing nonbinary individuals to farm animals during a committee hearing last week.

State Rep. John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction) made the comments during a hearing for a bill he sponsored, HB 2725, that would require state identification documents to contain only a male or female gender marker. The bill would ban the use of gender-neutral “X” markers, which are often employed in other states as an option for gender-nonbinary individuals, on official state IDs.

Arizona IDs already lack a third gender option, but Fillmore’s bill would make it impossible for a third option to be offered in the future.

Fillmore said during the hearing that he proposed the bill to “ensure clarity in government documents” and had hoped to avoid discussion around “feelings” about gender identity or gender dysphoria, adding that he expected such topics to become more prominent given the Biden administration’s stated support of transgender rights.

Following testimony from opponents of the bill, including three parents of nonbinary children, Fillmore said the push for non-traditional gender options by those on the political left was problematic, even raising the specter of “men” entering restrooms designated for girls, creating “situations that are not beneficial to society or the nuclear family as a whole.”

He suggested that transgender people who wished to transition could undergo surgery and then request to have their gender marker changed to one of the two binary options.

“I don’t believe we as a society should have all of the different binaries identified; what’s going to happen when someday wakes up and they want to go to a far extreme and identify as a chicken or something, for crying out loud?” he said. “Where do we draw the line?”

The bill ultimately passed the Committee on Government and Elections by a 7-6 vote, and now heads to the Rules Committee before it can receive a floor vote.

However, Fillmore’s comments have sparked a backlash, with several Democratic lawmakers on the committee expressing anger and sadness over the comments, as well as the bill’s approval by the committee.

“I was angry. There were three moms who made themselves very vulnerable and put their families in the public arena by sharing their very personal experience as to why a bill like this can be hurtful and detrimental for their children’s well-being,” Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D-Tucson) told NBC affiliate KPNX. “This is a harmful bill.”

Activist Riley Behrens, a Harvard University graduate student who was previously a Democratic campaign staffer in Arizona, told NBC News that he filed an ethics complaint against Fillmore for the comments.

“You’re not going to say this without some sort of repercussion or public statement back at you,” he said.

See also: Tucker Carlson attacks nonbinary CDC worker for being a “left-wing activist”

Fillmore has objected to classification of his remarks as prejudiced, as well as the ethics complaint against him.

The [ethics] complaint is entirely without merit, and it’s rather unfortunate that some opponents of the bill have unfairly and grossly mischaracterized my comments at Wednesday’s hearing,” he told KPNX in a statement. “I invite people to listen to my actual remarks, which do not remotely match the distorted version critics have alleged.”

Behrens also filed a second ethics complaint against Rep. Kevin Payne (R-Sun City) alleging that he commented “So it doesn’t know who it is?” during Mogan’s testimony. That comment was not heard on video of the hearing, but Behrens claims he was sitting in the room 10 feet from Payne when he heard the Republican make the remark.

“Representative Payne has stated that he does not recall saying anything like what is alleged in the complaint, nor are such words by him heard in the committee hearing video — an important fact the complainant conceded Thursday to the Arizona Mirror,” Andrew Wilder, the director of communications for the Arizona House’s Republican Majority Caucus, told NBC News in an email.

See also: Arizona Republican introduces three bills targeting transgender and nonbinary people

Megan Mogan, the mother of a 15-year-old nonbinary child who testified against the bill, took offense to Fillmore’s remarks during the hearing, tweeting: “Still shaking after an elected GOP state rep just compared my non-binary child to a barnyard animal.”

“I don’t think you have to be the parent of a nonbinary person, you can just be the parent of anyone, and if someone dehumanizes your child, it’s like one of the worst possible feelings you can have,” Mogan told NBC News. 

She added that providing the opportunity for a gender-neutral option on state IDs, as 19 other states and the District of Columbia currently do, would relieve some of the anxiety her child has over being outed against their will or misgendered in public settings. 

“When you’re free from that constant level of anxiety, you can do other things like be a kid, or be happy,” she said.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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