Texas panel advances ‘bathroom bill’ after testy, lengthy debate
WASHINGTON- The Rev. David Wynn told Texas lawmakers how the proposed “bathroom bill” would affect him, one of the hundreds to speak in about 13 hours of public testimony.
Wynn, a transgender man with a full beard, said his birth certificate still says “female,” so he would be required to use the women’s restroom under the new rules. “There’s been a lot of conversation, too, about having men in the women’s bathroom,” Wynn said, according to The Texas Tribune. “And I guarantee you there’s going to be a problem if I show up in a woman’s bathroom.” Wynn was among the opponents who testified Tuesday at the Texas state capitol in Austin to oppose the “bathroom bill,” which critics argue unfairly discriminates against transgender people. Protesters gathered in the outdoor rotunda near the statehouse, carrying signs and making speeches against the legislation.
But supporters say the bill would protect women and children and give them privacy and that it isn’t intended to target any group. After the lengthy public testimony, the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee voted around 5 a.m. Wednesday to advance the bill to the full Senate. The margin was 7-1. Senate Bill 6, as it’s officially known, would require all Texans to use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificates in public schools and in government-funded buildings. The state bill would also overrule any local anti-discrimination laws that allow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. That latter part of the bill would overrule protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in several cities, including San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin. Related: 3 myths that shape the transgender bathroom debate
The bill is particularly relevant given President Donald Trump’s recent move to reverse Obama-era guidelines that allowed students to use the bathroom of their choice in public schools. Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, who wrote the Texas legislation, said it is not meant to target transgender individuals. Rather, it targets people who may use anti-discrimination laws as cover, she said. “I have to say that while many have made this about a transgender bill, it’s more about someone that will use this bill as an excuse to go into the most intimate places we find ourselves in,” Kolkhorst said, according to The Texas Tribune.
Kolkhorst also said private businesses would be able to decide their bathroom policies themselves.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group, also testified at the hearing, saying the bill would protect the safety and privacy of women and children while in locker rooms, bathrooms or changing rooms. “The reason we have separate ‘boys’ rooms’ and ‘girls’ rooms’ is not because their ‘gender identities’ are different or their ‘gender expression’ is different,” Perkins said in the testimony posted on his group’s website. “It is because their basic physical anatomy is different.” States that passed anti-discrimination laws covering gender identity have not reported a spike in assaults or crimes, CNN has reported. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a group dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, considers the Family Research Council a hate group.
The bill has proven divisive even in a red state like Texas. About 300 people testified regarding the legislation, including transgender residents, parents of transgender students and business owners, according to The Dallas Morning News. Pamela Curry, a transgender activist and Sunday school teacher, was one of those who testified against the bill. “Forcing us into a restroom we do not feel comfortable in places us at extreme risk of physical harm,” Curry said, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Some Texas business and tourism groups worry that passing Senate Bill 6 could lead to loss of business after what happened last year in North Carolina. The Texas legislation is similar to North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill” that led to sharp response there from big companies, sports leagues and voters. After House Bill 2 passed in that state, PayPal canceled plans for a new operations center in Charlotte, the NCAA moved several championship basketball games from the state, and the NBA moved its All-Star Game to New Orleans. In addition, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who had signed the bill, lost his re-election bid. Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, pointed to those potential business losses as one reason for her opposition. She also offered another. “But the real reason to oppose this bill is that it is unnecessary, discriminatory and as mean-spirited as several other actions that have been proposed by this Legislature,” Burke said in a statement.