Republican lawmakers pass bill critics say ‘erases’ non-binary people

By: - February 10, 2021 10:23 pm

Illustration by mustafahacalaki | Getty Images

A Republican-backed proposal that Democratic lawmakers called “disturbing,” “incredibly cruel,” and “discriminatory” against non-binary Arizonans won approval in a legislative committee Wednesday afternoon. 

The proposal by Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, would bar all Arizona state agencies, departments, boards or commissions from identifying an individual’s sex as anything other than male or female. Arizona documents already only have the option between male and female when categorizing a person’s gender. In 2020, Fillmore sponsored numerous bills that were criticized as being anti-trans.

The House Government and Elections Committee approved House Bill 2725 along party lines Wednesday, with the seven Republican members voting for it and the six Democrats opposed. 

Before voting, lawmakers heard brief but emotional testimony from three mothers of non-binary children. Non-binary people have a gender identity or gender expression that doesn’t fall within traditional male or female categories. The mothers said Fillmore’s measure is unnecessary and a cruel reminder to their kids that they are not seen and accepted.  

Megan Mogan, a mother of three, said one of her kids identifies as non-binary. It is already hard for her to make sure that her child’s school, sports clubs and medical services recognize her child with their preferred identity. Morgan said HB2725 would guarantee that her child’s identity is never affirmed in state documents. 

“This proposed bill would make it that much harder for our child to possess and present accurate documentation when it’s already impossible for them to do so,” Mogan said. “Please reject this bill that promotes erasing non-binary citizens including our child.”

Tucson resident Kristin Downing told the committee she’s the mother of a 14-year-old non-binary child.

“This bill is pointless and cruel,” Downing said. “I am disappointed and frankly frustrated that, instead of spending time and energy alleviating the suffering Arizonans are experiencing during this unprecedented time of uncertainty, our lawmakers are focusing on a bill that achieves nothing other than bullying.”

Another speaker, Tory Roberg, a lobbyist for the Secular Coalition for Arizona, told the committee about a case from 2018 in which a federal court in Colorado prohibited the U.S. State Department from denying a passport to Dana Zzyym, a Navy veteran who identifies as intersex and non-binary, who didn’t mark male or female on the U.S. passport application form.

Roberg said HB2725 moves Arizona backward because it is discriminatory and doesn’t consider the science around gender and sex. She shared that she, too, is a mother of a non-binary child. 

“I would want nothing more than an option for them to have their proper gender on their drivers license next year,” Roberg said. 

Rep. Raquel Terán, D-Phoenix, asked Roberg, who testified remotely, how HB2725 would impact her child and how she would explain it to them.

“I am afraid that my child can even hear what is going on in the other room,” Roberg responded. “Because this is all very upsetting to them. They know they live in a society where they are not accepted just because of who they are, and it’s important that we love and care for all of our people just the way they are.”

Fillmore: We need to stop ‘men in little girls bathrooms’

Before voting for his bill, Fillmore, the sponsor, said his legislation is about giving “clarity in government documents.” He then made transphobic remarks about “not allowing men to enter into the restrooms of the little girls” and accused “the left” of creating “situations that I don’t think are beneficial to society and the nuclear family as a whole.” He also trivialized the calls for a more inclusive understanding in government of gender identities and expressions. 

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

Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, D-Tucson, pushed back against Fillmore’s framing. 

“The last time I checked, nobody had to produce a driver’s license when they went into a restroom, and I hope that this is the last time we publicly have conversations about bathrooms, and people following people to bathrooms,” she said. “What simplifies things is acknowledging people’s identity. That makes it simple — it is not that hard to add a box that says non-binary.”

Mogan wrote on Twitter that Fillmore’s statements left her reeling.  

As the meeting drew to a close, Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, noted some people waited almost four hours to testify and weren’t allowed to speak on the bill.

“This is absolutely heartbreaking, and that we are doing this in the middle of a pandemic, is this really a priority?” she said. “This bill is controversial and we shut out the voices of the public.  I think this bill is cruel.”

Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, accused Salman and the bill’s opponents of blowing things out of proportion. 

“This is not a controversial issue. This is a clerical issue, at best, and any attempts to paint it as anything else is media pandering,” he said. 

Equality AZ: GOP legislators are dehumanizing children

One of the people who was not given the time during Wednesday’s committee to share testimony on HB2527 was Michael Soto, executive director of Equality Arizona, an LGBTQ rights advocacy group.  

Soto said Fillmore’s remarks were “egregious, lacking in fact” and “out of step” with Arizona and science.

“They are harmful. They are the kind of outdated and inaccurate statements that allow violence to be pervasive against transgender and non-binary people,” Soto said. “Because we are not seen as human.”

Soto said HB2725 is shameful and should be rejected by lawmakers. 

“We need our lawmakers to be there to do serious policy work to help Arizonans make it through this pandemic and this economic recession, not picking on our on non-binary youth.”

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Laura Gómez
Laura Gómez

Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for education, immigration, political, and public safety reporting and Spanish-language news and feature reporting. Laura worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.

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