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Arizona state Sen. Sine Kerr supports Arizona Women's Bill of Rights

Arizona state Sen. Sine Kerr
Arizona state Sen. Sine Kerr

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- Saying they are protecting the rights of women, Arizona lawmakers are moving to spell out in state law just who is male and who is female.
And it declares that people are the sex they are assigned at birth.
"It provides much needed clarity in our statutes and uniformity for the courts,'' said Sen. Sine Kerr, R-Buckeye. And she said nothing in SB 1628, which cleared the Senate Thursday on a 16-12 party-line vote, precludes individuals from having their own "gender identity.''
"This is called the Arizona Women's Bill of Rights for a good reason,'' she told colleagues during debate.
"There are a lot of safety issues as we have seen, areas where trans males have invaded vulnerable places for women,'' Kerr said. "And it needs to be defined and the law followed, what a woman means, what a mother means, and also father, male, all those things.''
SB 1628 starts by replacing all references to "gender'' in state law with "sex.''
More to the point, it spells out that is determined at birth, includes only male or female as an option, is "objective and fixed,'' and "does not include gender identity or any other term that is intended to convey a person's subject sense of self and may not be used as a synonym or substitute for the term sex.''
Kern cited cases -- all from other states -- where transgender individuals or males who identify as females have decided to participate in women's sports and injured players who were born female.
But Sen. Priya Sundareshan, D-Tucson, said the wording of the bill would eliminate any legal recognition of transgender people "who are already at higher risk of violence.''
"We need to be protecting the populations who need it the most,'' she said.
And Sen. Anna Hernandez, D-Phoenix, said if Kerr and supporters of the measure were really interested in benefiting women there are other -- and better -- ways to do that.
"That is legislation that would give us the right to pay equity,'' she said.
"Let's pass legislation to give us the right to be free from gender violence and sexual discrimination,'' Hernandez said. "And maybe we can also work towards the right to affordable child care and to have access to reproductive health care that would benefit all of us.''
And there's also ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment which Republican lawmakers have for years blocked efforts by supporters to bring to the floor for a vote.
Kerr, for her part, said that's not her focus.
"This is about protecting women, protecting our daughters, our granddaughters, young girls,'' she said. "It's about fairness.''
The measure comes as the state is fighting a ruling by a federal judge who agreed to allow two transgender girls who have not experienced puberty to play on teams designated for girls.
It is doubtful, however, whether the change, even if signed into law by Gov. Katie Hobbs, would affect that litigation. That's because Judge Jennifer Zipps said the transgender girls are protected by Title IX, the federal law that bars discrimination based on sex in educational opportunities.
That case is now on appeal.
"People can deny reality all they want,'' said Senate President Warren Petersen.
"But a man is a man and a woman is a woman,'' said the Gilbert Republican. "And harassment is allowing men to take the field with women and girls with their biological mass that is inherently greater, and pound them, harm them and hurt them.''
But the issue, he said, goes beyond sports.
"Harassment is allowing men into women's restrooms and them feeling uncomfortable and unsafe,'' Petersen said. Ditto, he said, of boys going into girls' showers.
"And, yet, we hear from the other side of the aisle, my colleagues have said, and I quote, 'Let's get them a shower curtain, let's have a shower curtain between the boys and the girls,' '' he said. That refers to comments made last year by Sen. Christine Marsh, D-Phoenix, who said that issue of privacy could be resolved if schools were required to install shower curtains.
"I'm sorry,'' Petersen said. "As a dad of daughters, I'm not OK with that.''
Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson, suggested that the legislation cold lead to situations where girls and women could have their femininity assessed by "gender police.''
That drew a response from Sen. Anthony Kern who said he wanted to "promote the biggest gender cop ever.''
"And that's our Creator, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,'' he said.
"He created them, male and female,'' Kern said. "And because we have left that foundation in our country is the reason why we have to sit here and listen to the nonsense of gender.''
Kern said that, as far as he's concerned, a person's sex is listed on his or her birth certificate.
"If you try to change that as you move through life, that's your prerogative, that's your freedom,'' he said.
"But we should not allow our females, our women, our mothers, our daughters, our nieces to be subjected to biological men who decided to change their identity,'' Kern said. "That doesn't mean they're a woman.''
The measure now goes to the House.
On X and Threads: @azcapmedia