Metro Weekly

Texas Senate passes anti-transgender bathroom bill

Bill now heads to Texas House, where its future is less certain

Photo: Flinga, via Wikimedia.

The Texas Senate has passed SB 6, a bill that restricts which public restrooms, locker rooms and other changing or shower facilities transgender people may access.

They did so while ignoring threats of potential economic consequences and the pleas of transgender Texans who testified against it.

All 20 Republicans — and one Democrat with an anti-LGBTQ record — voted in favor of the bill, which was pushed by social conservatives and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Patrick had made passage of the bill one of his top priorities for this year’s legislative session.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), also overturns any city or local ordinances that extend protections to transgender people in the area of public accommodations, including restrooms, dressing rooms, and locker rooms.

It allows private businesses or public buildings that are rented out to private entities, to set their own policies regarding transgender people’s access to various facilities.

Senate Democrats offered 20 different amendments seeking to lessen the sting of some of the bill’s more harmful provisions, reports The Dallas Morning News. Only three were accepted and incorporated into the bill.

The most significant amendment that was accepted was one that requires any person who files a complaint alleging that a school or government agency is violating the law must sign a sworn affidavit that they are telling the truth. Opponents of the bill had previously expressed concern that the lack of such a requirement would lead to superfluous lawsuits from people looking to enrich themselves by claiming they had suffered “emotional pain and suffering” by being forced to share bathrooms with transgender people.

The bill now heads to the Texas House of Representatives, where the bill could encounter some roadblocks. First and foremost, House Speaker Joe Straus has expressed skepticism over whether the bill is needed, and whether passing it might result in negative economic consequences for the Lone Star State, in the same way that the similarly-crafted HB 2 did for North Carolina. 

LGBTQ advocates unleashed their fury on the Texas Senate for passing the bill.

“By voting this bill through, the Texas Senate has officially declared that the 125,000 transgender adults and thousands of trans children who live in Texas are second-class citizens,” Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement. “Trans people in Texas have it hard enough. These legislators are supposed to help their constituents, not add to the struggles they already face. We urge representatives in the House to do the right thing for all Texans and vote against this discriminatory bill.”

“Today, the Texas Senate took another step toward passage of the lie that is SB 6,” Chuck Smith, the CEO of Equality Texas, said in a statement. “Purported to be legislation about privacy and safety, SB 6 is actually intended to discriminate against transgender Texans and inhibit their participation in public life.

“Voting for discriminatory legislation like SB6 is a complicit act of violence and will only incite fear and put the most vulnerable people in our community at further risk,” added Smith. “We will stand together; we will support and comfort one another; and we will continue to work together until we have defeated every bill this session which seeks to discriminate against LGBTQ Texans.

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