Arizona Republicans Challenge Traditional Notions of 'Gender' in Legal Frameworks

Arizona Republicans Challenge Traditional Notions of ‘Gender’ in Legal Frameworks

After a heated committee hearing in which opponents feared it would increase harassment, a bill to amend the way gender is defined by state law got one step closer to passing the Arizona Legislature.

If the Legislature passes it, however, Governor Katie Hobbs is likely to veto it because the Legislature is pushing multiple legislation that specifically target LGBTQ+ Arizonans. A Hobbs representative referred to her prior vetoes of comparable laws when questioned about the legislation.

Sen. Sine Kerr, a Republican from Buckeye, sponsored the “Arizona Women’s Bill of Rights,” which would mandate that state legislation and other public regulations be updated to substitute the term “sex” for “gender.”

The measure mandates that public organizations and educational institutions provide “single-sex” spaces for living arrangements, athletics, restrooms, and other areas. It defines sex as exclusively encompassing the two sexes, male and female.

During a hearing on Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee, opponents of the bill stated that it would eliminate nonbinary, transgender, and intersex persons from the legal definition of sex.

Local lawyer Lisa Bivens discussed the potential impact of the measure on intersex individuals, or those whose birth circumstances leave their biological sex unknown, during the hearing.

Due to problems with the endocrine system, Bivens claimed that doctors were unable to identify her daughter’s sex at birth.

“In my opinion, any law that tries to put humans into categories is going to be problematic, not only for children with my daughter’s condition and others that have other kinds of endocrine issues, but it’s also going to run afoul of equal protection issues,” Bivens stated.

Before voting along party lines to support the bill, lawmakers questioned Bivens about her daughter’s circumstances for about thirty minutes. Rep. Teresa Martinez, a Republican from Casa Grande, supported the bill, stating that it is “needed” as “we have confused what a fact is.”

“People are saying this is not a fact,” Martinez stated. “We have two sexes, not three, they’re not subject for opinion. There are facts, there is male and there is female, that’s it.”

Rep. Analise Ortiz, a Democrat from Phoenix, expressed regret to the attendees of the session for the “deeply offensive” comments made by Republicans. The committee’s Republican members took issue with Ortiz’s apologies.

Defendants argued it’s not a “bathroom bill,” alluding to attempts to bar transgender persons from using restrooms that correspond to their gender identity instead of their biological sex, and that instead it’s intended to protect women.

This session, a number of bills sponsored by Republican lawmakers specifically target Arizonans who identify as LGBTQ+. Sen. Ken Bennett, a Republican, voted against a resolution last week in the Senate that sought to forbid students from using their preferred name and pronouns at school without parental consent. The resolution failed.

After passing the Senate last week along party lines, the “Arizona Women’s Bill of Rights” will now be put to a vote by the whole House.