WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
State News

Candidates Jumping Into LGBT, Bathroom Debate

Civil rights protections for the LGBT community will have to wait until at least next year.
Ted Eytan via Flickr

Political candidates are wading into the growing fight over who can use which bathroom. The Obama administration says students can use the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity—not their biology. And that’s gotten some districts, and politicians, riled up.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently rejected an amendment giving LGBT People protections from discrimination. The amendment was narrowly defeated by one vote—and that caused a rare moment of vocal outrage on the House floor.

That scene is just a sample of the larger, discordant sentiment when it comes to LGBT rights. The fight over bathroom use has been percolating for a while—especially here in Florida. Last year, Republican Rep. Frank Artilles sponsored a bill requiring people to use the bathrooms that correspond with their biological sex. It was a response to a Miami-Dade ordinance.

“A theme I’ve heard over and over again is ‘discrimination’. But I want to be clear. Gender identity itself is not a protected class under Title 7. There is no such thing," he said.

Title 7 under the Civil Rights Act prohibits gender and race discrimination. Members of the trans community, like Andrew Seeber, fought back against Artilles’ bill:

“I am legally female. And I think all in attendance today would produce the type of disruption this bill purports to protect against," Seeber argued.

The measure failed. The Obama Administration’s directive telling schools to allow kids to use the bathrooms and locker of the gender they identify with, or risk losing federal funding is the latest salvo in the ongoing culture wars. And now conservative-leaning politicians, and candidates for office, are piling on:

“Obama is forcing his left-wing, social engineering  agenda into our public schools, and playing politics with our school funding. It’s outrageous," says CD 2 Republican candidate Mary Thomas in a radio ad.

She’s against the directive, and using the issue to raise money. One of her competitors, former U.S. Attorney Ken Sukhia, is also opposing the directive. He made his views clear at a recent debate of Congressional District Two candidates.

“If you have a sex stereotype that you want to be like that day you just simply are that you identify that and that gives you the right to walk into a women’s restroom—and we’re the odd ones here?”

Most recently, outgoing state house Representative Janet Atkins asked Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to weigh in. North Florida Senator and congressional candidate Greg Evers also made a request. Bondi’s office declined.

"We do not issue opinions on federal law," said Deputy Attorney General Kent Perez in a letter.

But the bathroom battle does not break wholly on ideological or party lines. Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has come out in support of transgender rights. And her family is out with a message of its own featuring Ross Lehtinen’s son Rodrigo.

Lehtinin was among 212 members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted for the LGBT protections amendment.