Legal experts explain so-called 'Bathroom Bill'

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- Hundreds of people gathered at the Orpheum Theatre Tuesday for a scheduled City Council vote on the Human Relations Ordinance.

"We are all equal. Some of us aren't treated equally and that's what this law allows," said Toni D'Orsay, a transgender activist who supports the ordinance.

The ordinance adds protections for gay and transgendered people to already existing non-discrimination law in housing, employment, city contracts, and public accommodations. It has drawn fire from some conservative and religious organizations.

"The city of Phoenix right now prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, religion," said attorney Dan Barr. "This adds sexual orientation and gender identification."

"They are now a set class and if they are wronged, they have some rights to fall back on," attorney Brent Kleinman said.

The Phoenix Diocese of the Catholic Church sent an email to 3TV opposing the ordinance, despite an exemption for churches.

The conservative advocacy group Center for Arizona Policy also opposes the ordinance.

"It has severe problems for churches, families, and businesses," said Aaron Baer, a spokesman for the Center for Arizona Policy.

"The language is written so poorly that we see huge loopholes that cause problems for churches, religious organizations, or for people who hold sincerely held religious beliefs," Baer said.

The ordinance has been nicknamed the "Bathroom Bill" by opponents because it would allow a transgendered person to use the restrooms designated for people of the opposite sex.

"A man who says he's a woman is able to follow young girls into the locker room. That happened in Washington state," said Baer, referring to a Washington college that allowed a transgendered male into the women's locker room.

Both legal experts interviewed by 3TV said similar ordinances are in place across the nation, and have had little to no impact on churches and restrooms.

"The truth is there are 166 cities across the country that have precisely these kind of ordinances," Barr said. "Transgendered people have been going to the bathroom forever whether people know it or not, and this hasn't been an issue."

"This probably goes on much more than anyone thinks or expects without incident," said Kleinman, referring to transgendered people in restrooms.