Transgender and nonbinary activists have asked a federal judge in Florida to grant a temporary restraining order to prevent the state from enforcing biological-based restrictions on restroom usage while they attend a march in support of transgender youth on Saturday, October 7.
The group, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Southern Legal Counsel, is asking the judge to declare the state’s “bathroom ban” unconstitutional.
The ban, part of a law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this year, went into effect earlier this summer. It requires individuals to only use bathrooms in “public buildings” — schools, airports, state and local government buildings, prisons and jails — that align with their assigned sex at birth.
The law defines a person’s sex as based on their “specific reproductive role, as indicated by the person’s sex chromosomes, naturally occurring sex hormones, and internal and external genitalia.”
Those found to be violating the law by using facilities that don’t match their assigned sex at birth may be asked to leave, and, if they refuse, can be charged with criminal trespass.
The activists, who plan to attend the National March to Protect Trans Youth and Speakout for Trans Lives in Orlando, say they fear arrest or harassment if they attempt to use facilities that match their gender identities.
An estimated 1,000 people are expected to attend the march on Saturday.
“Plaintiffs have sincere concerns about their ability to exercise their protest and expressive conduct rights as they traverse the state of Florida from October 2, 2023 through October 8, 2023,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers argue in their lawsuit.
“Some Plaintiffs plan to use a restroom that aligns with their gender, who exposes them to arrest. Others wish to avoid that risk and plan to use non-affirming restrooms. Some will forgo multi-stall public restrooms altogether due to fear and discomfort.”
“It is farcical to believe that any trans, nonconforming, intersex person or queer person would feel safe right now, not only in the city of Orlando, but throughout the state of Florida, due to this law,” Zee Scout, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights who represents the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, claims that the restroom law is discriminatory and violates the free speech rights of transgender people to identify according to their gender identity.
“When [transgender, gender-nonconforming, and intersex] people use an affirming restroom or facility, they engage in symbolic speech because they communicate to the world and all who perceive them that they are their chosen gender, even if that gender differs from their sex assigned at birth,” the lawsuit argues.
The law, the plaintiffs argue, bans that symbolic speech and forced transgender and gender-nonconforming people to “adopt the state’s view of sex and gender.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Florida lawmakers used the law to target transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals out of animus, pointing to public statements from lawmakers and other officials. The plaintiffs claim the restrictions were “designed to target and demean the existence of TGNCI people and exclude them from accessing sex-segregated facilities in accordance with their gender.”
Christynne Wood, a 67-year-old transgender woman and a plaintiff in the case, called the restroom restrictions “fascist and absurd” during a news conference on Friday announcing the lawsuit, reports the Tampa-based radio station WMNF.
“You have nothing to fear from me being in the proper restroom. You have nothing to fear from me standing next to me in a public gallery,” she said. “And how dare the state of Florida tell me that I can’t use the proper restroom because I was born with a certain medical condition.”
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