Trans People in California Could Be Fined for Going to the Bathroom

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Photo: Hartmut Loebermann/Corbis

While LGBT nondiscrimination laws are making headway across the country, a new initiative in California could result in transgender people paying thousands of dollars in fines for using the bathroom. The Personal Privacy Protection Act would ban transgender people from using single-sex restrooms, dressing rooms, and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity. The law would apply to all buildings owned, rented, or occupied by state or local governments (including universities and public schools), and private businesses would be granted the right to enforce the “biological sex” rules in their own bathrooms.

The initiative, which still lacks sufficient signatures to appear on a state ballot, is allegedly meant to protect people from pedophiles and criminals who might pose as women to take advantage of women in restrooms. Though it doesn’t mention transgender people outright, insisting “a person shall use facilities in accordance with their biological sex in all government buildings” has serious ramifications for the LGBT community, especially because sex is defined as “the biological condition of being male or female as determined at or near the time of birth or through medical examination.”

Per the initiative, each person inside a restroom at the time of an unlawful entry could then sue the alleged interloper for $4,000 plus legal fees. Anyone who was prevented from going in the bathroom because of the presence of a such a person could also sue for $4,000 plus legal fees. There doesn’t appear to be a cap on how much money in fines a person can be sued for, so a transgender student using the bathroom after a crowded college play could quickly find they owe a six-figure settlement.

While the initiative would likely clash with federal interpretations of Title IX, BuzzFeed reporter Dominic Holden points out similar initiatives across the country. Legislatures in Texas and Florida have proposed bills like the Personal Privacy Protection Act, which was modeled after a bill that recently failed in Kentucky. The California initiative is the latest attack on a 2013 law passed by the California legislature that allowed students to use single-sex facilities that reflect their gender identity.