Texas Bathroom Bill Passes Senate, But Faces Obstacles in House
The Texas Senate formally passed Senate Bill 6 Wednesday night. Also called the Texas Privacy Act, the measure would direct people in state government buildings, including schools, to use facilities corresponding with the sex on their birth certificate. Private businesses and entities leasing public buildings are permitted to set their own rules, according to the bill, though cities may not enact contrary ordinances.
“The people of Texas elected us to stand by our principles and uphold conservative values,” Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said in a statement Wednesday night, local KTRK reported. “The Texas Privacy Act reflects common decency and common sense and is essential to protect public safety. It protects Texas businesses and codifies what has always been common practice in Texas and everywhere else — that men, women, boys and girls should use separate, designated restrooms, locker rooms and showers in government buildings and public schools.”
Opposition From Texas House Republicans
In the state House, the bill faces an uphill battle. Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) told The Dallas Morning News Thursday, “In all the years I’ve been on [the House Committee on] State Affairs, we’ve never seen an issue that would indicate there’s a need to address a bathroom bill.”
House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) has outspokenly opposed the bill since early on. In January he revealed he believed it could hurt business in Texas, The Dallas Morning News reported. According to the Associated Press, the NFL, NBA, American Airlines and Lady Gaga, among other large corporations and prominent celebrities, have criticized the proposal or threatened to take business elsewhere.
“The Texas private sector has built an economy that people want to be part of … Our economy is modern, diverse and dynamic, Straus said. “We want to continue that success and we want Texas to keep attracting the best and the brightest. One way to maintain our economic edge is to send the right signals about who we are.”
Supporters’ Respond to Fears About Bill
Senate Bill 6’s proponents have different ideas about the need for the measure and whether it will hurt the economy.
Sen. Lois Koklhorst (R-Brenham), the bill’s author, said that President Donald Trump’s move to leave the transgender restroom issue up to states necessitated “guidance” from Texas. “There’s nothing easy about Senate Bill 6,” she said in a press conference last week, “but I think that it crafts a non-discriminatory way to strike a balance to protect all of us when we find ourselves in the intimate spaces, vulnerable spaces.”
During the same press conference at Texas’s capitol in Austin, North Carolina Lt. Governor Dan Forest attempted to allay fears about negative economic ramifications. Forest was a main force behind North Carolina’s controversial HB2, and said media reports that the measure hurt the state’s economy were “lies and misinformation.”
The Texas Privacy Act will head next to a public hearing before the House Committee on State Affairs. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has not expressed public support for or opposition to the bill.