Del. Bob Marshall (R-Manassas) on Thursday urged fellow Republican lawmakers to back his controversial “Physical Privacy Act,” more commonly referred to as the “bathroom bill.”
Advocates say Marshall’s HB-1612 will ensure privacy for all in public places. Opponents maintain it will discriminate against transgender people and may hurt Virginia’s economy, citing North Carolina’s passage of a similar bill last year.
Marshall, who has represented Manassas and part of Prince William County for 26 years, sought to frame the measure as necessary for the safety of children. He opened his prepared remarks with a series of rhetorical questions about “biological men” following young girls into restrooms or sharing showers with them in public schools.
“If some Virginia politicians want to support allowing boys and girls in public schools to share lockers, showers and bathrooms, once a mother knows this, I think it will be met with serious opposition,” Marshall said. “Parents who want to preserve the safety of their children are acting out of love, not bigotry.”
Travis Witt, a board member of the Virginia First Foundation, said his right-leaning organization supports the bill because of the protection it would provide children from “unlawful or inappropriate sexual exposure.” Interest groups who “look out for the few at the detriment of the masses” were responsible for politicizing the proposal, Witt said. “In a diverse society, we must find a way to respect everyone without taking away the safety and the privacy issues of others,” Witt said.
Neither Marshall nor any of the advocates of the legislation who spoke could cite when asked in the question-and-answer period an instance in Virginia where a transgender individual sexually assaulted a person in a bathroom.
James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, an advocacy organization for the LGBTQ community, questioned how familiar the speakers were with transgender individuals.
“Transgender people are not predators,” Parrish said. “This isn’t about men trying to go to women’s bathrooms. It’s about transgender people accessing facilities and accommodations that align with their gender identity.”
Parrish also disputed Marshall’s assertion that a similar bill, sponsored by Del. Mark Cole, was buried last session. The bill in question was tabled by voice vote and died in the House Committee on General Laws.
Marshall's bathroom bill has been referred to the General Laws committee. Its next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 17.