Texas’ Senate ‘Bathroom Bill’ Advances Past First Hearing

Texas' bathroom bill will likely go before the full state Senate after a committee passed the bill 7-1 early Wednesday morning.

By Liberty McArtor Published on March 8, 2017

Texas’ bathroom bill will likely go before the full state Senate after the Senate’s State Affairs Committee passed the bill 7-1 in an early morning vote Wednesday.

The vote followed a full day of testimony Tuesday in Austin. In 13 hours, over 200 people testified against the bill and around 30 testified in favor of the bill, the Texas Tribune reported.

Known as Senate Bill 6 or the Texas Privacy Act, the legislation will be the first of its kind to be introduced in any state since the Trump administration rescinded an Obama-era policy that threatened to withhold federal funding from public schools unless they allowed transgender students to use the restroom of the opposite biological sex.

“There’s nothing easy about Senate Bill 6,” Sen. Lois Koklhorst (R-Brenham), the bill’s author, said Tuesday in a midday press conference, “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.”

The Bill’s Contents

In a phone briefing last Friday, Kolkhorst and Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick outlined the contents of Senate Bill 6. The bill mandates that in government buildings such as public schools, people must use the bathroom or other intimate facility that corresponds with the sex on their current birth certificate (though in Texas, birth certificates can be updated to reflect a medical sex-change procedure).

Private businesses and entities leasing public facilities are permitted to set their own guidelines, according to the bill, and schools may make accommodations for individuals upon request.

Patrick said Friday that the bill’s purpose is to prevent sexual predators from posing as transgender in order to access women’s restrooms, and to prevent male and female students from using intimate facilities together in schools, which he claimed “overwhelming” numbers of polled Texas parents opposed. He had previously called the bill “a common sense, privacy and public safety policy for everyone.”

Protecting Women

Tuesday’s press conference featured multiple voices claiming Senate Bill 6 is necessary for protecting women and children.

“This is absolutely an issue of women’s rights,” said Kaeley Triller Haver of Washington, a rape survivor, Federalist writer and women’s rights activist. Haver spoke during the press conference after testifying Wednesday morning. “What I’ve realized is that when gender identity wins, women always lose, every single time. The two main things that we lose are our choice, and our voice.”

Triller Haver cited date revealing that in 2015, over 1,600 Texas women were raped by a stranger. The same year, five hate crimes against transgender individuals were committed, she said.

“Those hate crimes are terrible, they should not happen, they should not be excused and we need to hold people accountable for those,” Triller Haver said. “But you’ve got five versus 1,600, and you’re telling me that we’re the fear mongers.” She said any law that forces little girls to share a shower with a male or view male anatomy before she is ready is “abuse.”

Tony Perkins of Family Research Council also joined the press conference after testifying in support of the measure. “Some have said we don’t need this because we have laws against voyeurism, we have laws against abuse, we have laws against rape and all of these other things and it’s true, we do,” he said. “But we don’t want to open the door to more. We have laws against burglary, but we don’t tell our citizens to keep their doors unlocked and opened.”

Concerns About the Economy

As NBCDFW reported, Senate Bill 6 has been criticized by corporations like Google and the NFL. The Tribune noted that some fear a potential economic backlash.

During Tuesday’s press conference, North Carolina Lt. Governor Dan Forest attempted to allay those fears. After North Carolina’s own bathroom bill (HB 2) controversy, media largely reported that the state was hurting economically. Forest called such reports “lies and misinformation.”

“Even at the most extreme case of what this is costing the state of North Carolina, what it has cost to date is one tenth of one percent of our annual GDP,” he said. “Our economy is thriving.” He said the state has created 76,000 new jobs in the last year and that tourism has increased.

“There are a lot of people who are very thankful that we have protected the privacy rights and security of women and children in North Carolina,” he said. “I’m here to support Lt. Governor Patrick and the Senate and the legislature to do the right thing in Texas.”

What’s Next

Patrick said the full state Senate will consider the bill next week. Endorsements from 19 senators are required in order for the Senate to do so, however, and only 18 senators have so far, the Tribune reported — though other Republicans are still likely to endorse. According to the Associated Press, Senate Bill 6 is not popular in the Texas House.

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