At Friday’s Arizona House Health and Human Services Committee meeting, lawmakers passed House Bill 2312 by a narrow margin of 5 to 4. HB2312 states that establishments that do not permit biological male employees to be near a woman or minor children while living in the establishment will not be held liable for sex discrimination if the sole purpose of the establishment is to serve women or to provide safe and stable housing for women and their minor children.
The Committee’s primary concerns regarding HB 2312 related to forms of employment and gender discrimination under federal law.
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During the public testimony, Marilyn Rodriguez resisted for Creosote Partners, a progressive lobbying and law firm, on behalf of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. Rodriguez began by sharing how domestic and sexual service providers have long recognized that these issues affect more than women.
“Men, non-binary, gender non-single, and trans people are also affected by domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking,” Rodriguez said. “As such, victim shelters accommodate people of all genders.”
Rodriguez explained that facilities must be compliant to receive federal and state funding. According to Rodriguez, Arizona’s Service Standards for Sexual Violence Providers and providers of domestic violence services as well as the Federal Violence Against Women Act of 1994and the Reinstatement Act of 2013explicitly prohibit gender discrimination.
“The discrimination against biological males is a blatant attempt to allow discrimination against trans people as well,” Rodriguez said. “This law implies that while those who are biologically male are inherently dangerous to women, while the majority of the victimization of others is committed by men, we are better served judging individuals on their merits to identify individuals on the basis of their individual skills, merits, and histories, and not on the basis of gender.”
Rep. Rachel Jones (R – Maricopa) is the sponsor of the bill and highlighted some of her personal experiences. Jones’ 17-year-old daughter inspired the bill. She was adopted by a foster family when she was nine, and her birth father traded with her sisters. While working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence, Jones’ daughter learned that an animal shelter was losing $4 million in funding because the facility was hiring only female staff to keep the women safe. As soon as the Biden administration took office, Jones said the shelter would have to accommodate hiring biological males or lose funding.
“The way the federal government handled it was take a grant away from them,” Jones said.
Sen. Justine Wadsack (R – Maricopa) also provided personal experience to justify supporting the bill. She described working with a young man suffering from a serious mental illness. He ended up being held in a facility for two weeks because no facility would accept him. Wadsack accuses the young man of being involved in crimes against women and children.
“He didn’t identify as trans, but at one point TBD’s mental health department police took him away and took him to the Gospel Rescue Mission,” Wadsack said. “The Gospel Rescue Mission took him in and he immediately changed his gender to female, changed his name – which wasn’t legal, they just accepted it that way – and then they mixed him up with the women at the shelter. And this is a man who just may have raped children and women. And now he sleeps on the same side as the women.”
Wadsack explained that this individual used the system in an abusive manner and that women who have been repeatedly sexually assaulted don’t want to see a man, they want to feel safe.
While all committee members recognized the importance of HB 2312, uncertainties remain about the language of the bill and how it would relate to federal law.
The committee unanimously passed HB 2455, which expands the definition of developmental disabilities to include severe chronic disabilities that result from Prader-Willi syndrome, and HB 2037, which repeals civil penalties for dentists who distribute drugs for profit without from to be registered with the State Dental Association. The committee also unanimously approved HB 2473, which expands the scope of dental hygienists to include dental hygiene treatment plans and evaluations.