Metro Weekly

Texas House Speaker: Bathroom bill “manufactured and unnecessary”

Joe Straus says it would be a "mistake" for Texas to follow in North Carolina's footsteps

Joe Straus – Photo: Facebook.

A bill that seeks to restrict which restrooms transgender people in Texas can access seems destined for the scrap heap, if comments from the state’s powerful House Speaker are to be believed. 

Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) expressed his opposition to SB 6, the so-called “bathroom bill,” during a sit-down interview with Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

“I oppose it … I’d never even heard about [this issue] until a year or two ago,” Straus said. “Count me as a no.”

Under SB 6, any person would be restricted from using any public restrooms or shared facilities that don’t correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate. But Straus has repeatedly expressed skepticism at the bill, saying it’s not a priority for the House of Representatives. By contrast, the Texas Senate and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, in his role presiding over the Senate, have made transgender restroom restrictions a top priority for this year’s session.

Adding to the sense that the bill will be defeated in committee before it even hits the House floor are comments from House State Affairs Committee Chair Byron Cook, who told The Dallas Morning News that there’s “no evidence” that the bill is solving any actual problems facing the state.

While Straus said it was “anybody’s guess” whether the bill would make it to the House floor for a vote, he also said he did not feel “a great deal of fervor to promote that bill in the House.” Noting that his home city is slated to host the Final Four NCAA basketball championships, he said his constituents did not want to risk losing that opportunity, and were not talking about SB 6, and “certainly not in a positive way.”

“To walk, with our eyes wide open, into a situation that North Carolina led on … would be a tremendous mistake,” Straus said. “It’s not just my opinion, it’s the opinion of thousands of businesses, who are those job creators. Politicians don’t create jobs, [but] we can sure make some boo-boos that lead to some problems in job creation and in our economy, and I don’t want to be party to doing that.”

Straus added that the idea that SB 6 had gotten this much attention during this legislative session was “astounding.”

“If we’ve gotten to the point in our civilization, and our society, [where] our politicians have to pass bills about bathroom stuff, we’ve gotten really out of control,” he said. “There are laws on the books now about behavior in the bathroom, or creating crimes, criminal behavior in bathrooms or anywhere else. So it seems a little manufactured to me, and unnecessary.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com