GOP lawmaker says there will be ‘violence’ if Illinois allows all-gender bathrooms

SPRINGFIELD — Tempers flared on the state Senate floor Thursday during debate of Democratic-led measures, including a bill that clears the way for gun manufacturers to be sued and another that would allow businesses to create multi-capacity bathrooms open to all genders — an idea one Republican warned will spark violence. 

State Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Andalusia, told lawmakers that he would “beat the living p—” out of any man who walked into a restroom with his daughter.

“This is gonna cause violence, and it’s gonna cause violence from dads like me,” the Moline firefighter and paramedic said to some cheers from fellow Republicans during floor debate on the measure. 

The bill ultimately cleared the Senate 35-20.

The legislation, which now heads back to the Illinois House, would allow businesses to construct all-gender multi-capacity restrooms, but it would not require them to do so. The restrooms would include floor to ceiling stall dividers with locks and toilets instead of urinals, among other provisions. 

The state already has in place a law that requires that every single-occupancy restroom be identified as all-gender and designated for use by no more than one person at a time. 

State Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, argued the bill she sponsored is all about equality and inclusion — including for those with disabilities and older adults. But she didn’t steer clear of the political motivations underlying the measure, which is supported by Equality Illinois, Planned Parenthood Illinois Action and the AIDS Foundation Chicago, among many other groups. 

State Sen. Celina Villanueva speaks at a news conference at La Villita Community Church on the Southwest Side in March.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

“We need this bill because we are surrounded by states in this country that are proactively prosecuting and persecuting people because of who they are,” Villanueva said. “And when you start talking over me, there’s a reason for that — because I’m hitting way too many trigger points.”

Republican-led state legislatures across the country are seeking to limit LGBTQ+ rights, with Indiana and Iowa among states restricting or banning gender-affirming care for minors. 

State Senate Majority Leader Kim Lightford, D-Maywood, took the defense a little further, telling Republicans that those upset about the measure “don’t understand that life is evolving.”

“It just sounds like to me that these are individuals who have problems with the LGBTQ community. And it sounds like these are the same people who act as if they don’t have family members or friends who are members of the LGBTQ community.” Lightford said.

State Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford speaks to reporters in March. 

State Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford speaks to reporters in March.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times-file

“People are changing and growing and not afraid to be who they are. And as a society, we ought to offer options. So if you do not want to go in that particular bathroom, then just don’t freakin’ do it.” 

Bill allows lawsuits against gunmakers

Earlier, the Senate voted 34-22 to approve a measure that will change a section of the state’s Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practice to allow the state and consumers to sue gun manufacturers. It will now head to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk, and he has vowed to sign it. Three Democrats voted no. 

“Gun violence is a public health epidemic, and those who encourage unlawful use of a firearm or target sales of firearms to minors worsen the scourge of gun violence in our communities,” Pritzker said in a statement. “This legislation finally protects Illinoisans from predatory actions by the firearms industry.”

Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, held an ad of a toddler holding an assault weapon as he urged senators to approve the measure that would also prohibit gun manufacturers from promoting illegal militia activity. 

State Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, speaks on the floor of the Illinois Senate in 2021.

State Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, speaks on the floor of the Illinois Senate in 2021.

Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP file

“This is how people are marketing guns to our children,” Harmon said. “I don’t think the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act should leave that unchecked.”

The bill would also make it illegal for a firearms dealer to “create a condition that endangers public safety” — such as failing to prevent the sale of a firearm to a straw purchaser and failing to ensure that business practices comply with all local, state and federal laws. 

Congress in 2005 passed a bill that shielded firearms manufacturers and dealers from liability in instances when their products were used to commit crimes. But several states have approved legislation that used an exception under federal law to allow for certain lawsuits against gun manufacturers and sellers, including in Washington state, where the measure is being challenged in federal court. 

Illinois Senate Republican Leader John Curran, R-Downers Grove, called the bill a “drastic overreach” and “broad in nature.” He said he expected it to be challenged in courts should it become law. 

Illinois Senate Republican Leader John Curran is interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times in November.

Illinois Senate Republican Leader John Curran is interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times in November.

Illinois’ assault weapons ban, passed in January, is already being challenged. Though enforcement of the assault-weapons ban was briefly blocked by a federal judge in southern Illinois, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals intervened early this month and allowed enforcement of the ban to continue. It has since consolidated challenges to the law and set oral arguments for June 29.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined Wednesday to issue an injunction against the Illinois ban, turning down a request by opponents seeking to temporarily block enforcement of the law until the appeals are resolved.

Illinois lawmakers had planned to adjourn their spring legislative session on Friday, but they still were hammering out details of the state budget on Thursday.

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