RICHMOND — A Virginia lawmaker blasted fellow Republicans as cowards Thursday for rejecting his bill to regulate the use of bathrooms and locker rooms in schools, highway rest stops and other government-owned buildings.
“You campaign one way and come down here and kill things silently,” Del. Robert G. Marshall (Prince William) fumed at members of a GOP-controlled House subcommittee after they used an unrecorded voice vote to dispatch with his bill. He said their actions were “disgusting.”
Marshall had proposed legislation similar to what passed with great controversy in North Carolina last year. His bill would have required people to use the restroom that corresponds with the gender on their original birth certificates.
He softened the measure somewhat as the House General Laws subcommittee took it up in an afternoon hearing, proposing an amendment to strike the word “original” from the legislation. The amendment would have allowed those who undergo sex-reassignment therapy or surgery and who have their birth certificates changed to reflect that to use the bathroom associated with their gender identity.
“If someone goes through the process of changing their sex — I don’t think it’s very smart because such people have very high rates of self-harm. That’s documented, not from me,” he said. “But if they go through that, fine. Let them use that bathroom.”
Marshall said the purpose of the bill was to protect women and girls from predatory men who might pretend to be transgender to gain access to areas where women are undressed.
Dubbing his bill the “Physical Privacy Act,” Marshall bristled at its more common description as the “bathroom bill.” He said his main concern was not bathrooms, where stalls provide a measure of privacy, but public locker rooms, where women could be forced to undress and shower in full view of men who claim to be transgender.
A handful of conservative and liberal activists testified for and against the measure. Then, with no discussion among the subcommittee’s five Republicans and two Democrats, Del. Barry D. Knight (R-Virginia Beach) moved to lay the bill on the table. The action kills the bill unless the subcommittee reverses itself within a week’s time, Marshall said.
One member, Del. Thomas C. Wright Jr. (R-Lunenburg), raised a finger in a manner that seemed to indicate he opposed the motion. The vote tally was unrecorded, as is typical for voice votes.
Subcommittee members continued with their meeting after the vote and were not immediately available for comment.
“They don’t even want to defend their oath,” Marshall said later. “That’s disgusting.”
Marshall had never expected the bill would become law, at least not under Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who had vowed to veto it if it got to his desk. But he hoped to pressure Republican leaders to let it get to the floor of the House.
One of the most vocal conservatives in the General Assembly, Marshall has often accused Republican leaders of killing his social-issue bills to avoid controversy.
An earlier version of this article erroneously reported that Marshall used the word “disgusting” to describe the legislators, rather than their actions. The story has been corrected and updated.