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Edwardsville Democrat threatened over gender-neutral bathroom bill, cancels event

 Katie Stuart wearing blue glasses
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Illinois State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, earlier this month at her office in Springfield.

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

State Rep. Katie Stuart, a Democrat from Edwardsville, said Friday she received “violent threats” that were spurred by a bill she sponsored to establish privacy and safety standards for bathrooms without a posted gender.

As a result of the threats, Stuart said in a news release that she has canceled a “constituent coffee” event scheduled Saturday in Collinsville. The event was called “Coffee with Katie.”

Stuart said she has contacted the Illinois State Police and other law enforcement about the threats, according to an email a spokesman sent to the News-Democrat.

A representative from ISP acknowledged the complaint about the threats and said Friday no additional information will be released.

The threats and “malicious false information” have been spread by “special interest groups,” Stuart said in the news release.

The proposed bill, House Bill 1286, “does not require gender-neutral bathrooms,” the news release stated. It would only establish toilet and urinal safety and privacy standards should a developer decide to include gender-neutral bathrooms, it said.

Those standards would apply only to new construction projects.

“Extremist groups and some politicians have attempted to misrepresent the true purpose of the bill in an attempt to score cheap political points and divide people,” the release stated.

“We’ve seen how hateful misinformation just like what is now flooding into our community can result in real violence, and I will not put my staff and my constituents in harm’s way,” Stuart said in the release. “I want to be very clear: Out-of-touch special interests are manufacturing controversy where none should be. These actions are inciting violence, and now preventing people from peacefully participating in our democracy. I will reschedule this event when it is safe to do so, and will continue to confront misinformation with truth.”

Details about the threats were not listed in the news release.

A spokesman said Stuart was not available for an interview Friday but he emailed the BND additional comments from Stuart regarding the threats.

She wrote that the threatening messages came over the phone, but she did not want to “give those individuals any more attention by broadcasting their words or sharing their name.”

Stuart has received phone and email messages “filled with vile language, prompted by the very groups that are misinforming people about the bill.”

“Of course I was concerned for my safety,” she said in the email. “But I am also disappointed in organizations that are choosing to instill fear and promote falsities for political gain. This bill is written to allow entities who have been interested in creating gender neutral multi-stall restrooms the ability to do so under the law. Under current law, that is not possible.

“We need to return to a time of respectful discourse. It is okay to have a difference of opinion. It is not okay to attempt to settle that difference through violence or intimidation.”

Edwardsville Police Chief Michael Fillback and Collinsville Police Chief Steve Evans said Friday they had not received complaints regarding the threats.

The House Bill was approved in a committee on Wednesday, according to a report from Capitol News Illinois.

Mike Koziatek is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

Mike Koziatek is a reporter who covers the Belleville area for the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

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