State Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Andaluisa, who also works as a Moline firefighter, has come under fire for threatening violence during floor debate on a bill about unisex bathrooms.
Last week, Illinois lawmakers approved a bill that will allow businesses and public institutions the option to provide gender-neutral, multi-occupancy bathrooms. The bathrooms are required to be equipped with floor-to-ceiling stall dividers, locks, baby changing tables and at least one vending machine for menstrual products.
During debate, Anderson said he would be driven to physical violence if a man entered the same restroom as his daughter.
He talked about being in public with his 10-year-old daughter and how he handles it when she needs to use the restroom and his wife is not present. The girl checks to see if anyone else is in the restroom, Anderson said, and he waits outside the door if it is occupied.
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"If somebody goes in there and it's a woman, fine," he said. "Under this, I can't see with the floor-to-ceiling things. She won't be able to see who's in there. I won't be able to see who's in there.
"I'm telling you right now, if a guy walks in there, I'm gonna beat the living piss out of him."
He went on to say how the bill was going to cause violence from other dads like him.
When questioned by a Lee Enterprises reporter Wednesday about his remarks, Anderson declined to comment and directed the reporter to his political director, Jim Reis, for a statement. The entirety of those follow-up remarks can be found on Neil Anderson for Senate Facebook page and Twitter.
Reis wrote that Anderson was elected to represent the values of Illinois' 47th District and that his constituents overwhelming tell the senator they are frustrated with the General Assembly arguing about restrooms when there are bigger issues at hand. Anderson stood up and shared a real concern of millions of Illinois parents, Reis said, who are charged with the responsibility of protecting their kids.
"They are setting up harmful and traumatizing scenarios for children and dangerous conditions for women and people with nonconforming gender identities," according to Anderson's statement. "This legislation is a solution in search of a problem. For the most part, people are courteous and respectful of others when it comes to the restroom, and it’s a private matter that hasn’t required legislative attention for decades. The activist agenda being forced on people, business owners and community leadership is causing the angst and division."
The Quad-City Times/Dispatch-Argus sent an email to the city of Moline, Anderson's employer, regarding his remarks.
"The statements made do not represent the view of the city of Moline," Moline City Administrator Bob Vitas wrote. "The statements are his and his alone to speak to."
The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board has called upon Anderson to apologize, writing that "a legislator saying they planned to beat up a fellow citizen, apparently on no greater matter than having walked into a restroom, is stunning and clearly encourages violent behavior."
The editorial stated that the language Anderson used during the debate was "unacceptable," and he "should take to the floor and apologize. On pain of expulsion."