The Texas Senate has approved legislation impairing bathroom access for transgender people. Photo by Daniel Mayer; courtesy Wikimedia

Texas Senate Advances Anti-Transgender Bathroom Bill

BY CHRIS JOHNSON, WASHINGTON BLADE

The Texas State approved legislation on Tuesday that would bar transgender kids from using certain restrooms consistent with their gender identity, inching the state closer to enacting the law despite objections the from transgender advocates, the business community and law enforcement.

By a 21-10 vote, the chamber approved Senate Bill 3, which would bar schools from allowing transgender students to use the restroom of their choice and undercut municipal non-discrimination protections for transgender people in restrooms, locker rooms and athletic activities.

The bill now heads to the House, where its fate is uncertain. Texas House Speaker Joe Strauss has objected to legislation that seeks to undermine transgender people's access to the restroom, but that might not be enough to stop passage of the bill.

State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), the sponsor of the bill in Senate, made the case on the Senate floor would be a "solution for Texas" to ensure safety and privacy in the restrooms, according to the Texas Tribune.

Although the Texas legislature couldn't agree on anti-transgender bill during its general session, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called lawmakers back into a special session this summer to ensure passage of legislation. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has made barring transgender from using restrooms consistent with their gender identity a personal legislative priority.

The Texas Senate approves the legislation despite objections from companies large and small that operate in Texas. In a letter dated July 17, 16 Dallas-area CEOs -- including American Airlines, AT&T and BNSF Railway -- urged Abbott to reject the bill because it "threatens our ability to attract and retain the best talent in Texas, as well as the greatest sporting and cultural attractions in the world."

Law enforcement officials have also voiced opposition. On Tuesday, police chiefs from large cities in Texas gathered at the Capitol to reject the nation the transgender bathroom bill is necessary for privacy, according to the Texas Tribune.

On Friday, a Texas Senate committee approved the legislation by an 8-1 vote despite 10 hours of testimony in which opponents of the legislation outnumbered its supporters 13 to 1.

Transgender advocates blasted the Texas Senate for approving the measure, saying its passage would harm transgender children trying to learn in school.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement the advancement of Senate Bill 3 is a "groundless attack on transgender children."

"When hundreds of Texans -- including educators, law enforcement officers, women's rights activists, business leaders, and more -- came to Austin last Friday to testify on SB 3, the overwhelming majority spoke out in opposition to discrimination, outnumbering the supporters of the bill 13 to 1," Keisling said. "That should have sent a message to senators: Texans don't want their government to write discrimination into law. They don't want their legislators to be chasing phantom problems, especially not when the purported solution could send shockwaves through Texas' economy and harm transgender and non-transgender Texans alike."

Senate Bill 3 is similar to North Carolina's anti-LGBT House Bill 2, which resulted in an estimated loss of $600 million for the state in economic boycott before lawmakers replaced the measure. LGBT rights supporters say the new law is still discriminatory.

JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president of policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement Senate Bill 3 is a "blatantly discriminatory bill, demonstrating yet again that these lawmakers care more about pursuing cheap political points than protecting the lives of transgender Texans."

"It is appalling that after hearing more than 10 hours of testimony, overwhelmingly from Texans who oppose this legislation, the Texas Senate still voted to move SB3 forward," Winterhof said. "Despite this broad opposition -- including from businesses, sports leagues, parents, and faith leaders -- the Texas Senate and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appear to be fine with establishing Texas as the next North Carolina."

Chris Johnson is Chief Political and White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National Gay Media Association.
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