While one may have hoped that the battles over bathroom bills were solely the province of 2016, they're apparently back—and taking the political stage in Texas.
Legislators are advancing a bill—Senate Bill 6 or “SB 6”—that intends to prohibit transgender and gender nonconforming individuals from using their desired restroom. In public schools, government buildings, and publicly owned facilities, people would be required to use the restroom that reflects their “biological sex” instead of their gender identity.
The measure has received proper approval by the state’s Senate and will advance to the Texas House for final approval.
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, first announced the bill at a news conference in January and proclaimed, “We know we’re on the right side of the issue. We’re on the right side of history. You can mark today as the day Texas is drawing a line in the sand and saying no,” according to the Texas Tribune.
Another major proponent of SB 6, Republican Senator Lois Kolkhorst, pushed the bill through the Senate, by citing it as a way to correct President Obama’s safety measures for transgender students. (Which the Trump administration has since revoked.)
“When we talk about a child declaring their own gender, we are talking about allowing male students to enter the female restroom and locker room,” Kolkhorst wrote for the Houston Chronicle earlier this month. “Schools will face lawsuits, and pit parents against school boards, as we have already seen in Fort Worth, Dripping Springs and Pearland.”
The opposition has been quick and staunch.
Some Texas lawmakers raised concerns over the economic consequences of such a law, anticipating that it could cost cities like Houston millions of dollars.
Other Texas leaders took to social media to vent frustrations, framing the issue in relationship to transgender solidarity and equal rights.
“It violates individual rights,” Democratic Senator José Rodríguez shared on Facebook. “It conflicts with federal civil rights laws, and more broadly, conflicts with the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection for all people. It is bad for business. It nullifies local control. It creates enormous liability issues for our schools and local governments.”
Democratic Senator Sylvia Garcia concurred and shared on her Facebook page: “A total of 5 transgender women in Texas who have been murdered this year just for being who they are. If we cannot do this for anyone else, we should do this for our children and for the lives already lost.”
Beyond state leaders, civil rights organizations are speaking out against the measure too. The Human Rights Campaign have referred to SB 6 as shameful and dishonest. The ACLU of Texas has warned that a law as such would, “contribute to the disproportionately high rates of harassment, bullying, and violence that transgender individuals.”
Moreover, the NFL has spoke out against the bill while the NCAA are monitoring the situation closely. The issue is of particularly note for the NCAA as public universities are included in their system and the organization is already taking action against similar anti-LGBT laws in North Carolina.
All is not lost.
The silver lining on the current status of SB 6 is that the measure still has to be approved by the House—and House Speaker, Republican Joe Straus, does not think it is economically sound.
As Texas Monthly reported, Straus spoke at the Texas Association Of Business legislative conference in January and said, “Our economy is modern and diverse and dynamic,” and added, “One way to maintain our economic edge is to send the right signals about who we are."