Metro Weekly

Texas Lt. Governor threatens to force special session if House doesn’t pass “bathroom bill”

Gov. Greg Abbott has also urged lawmakers to approve restrictions on transgender Texans' bathroom use

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (left) – Photo: Office of the Lieutenant Governor

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is threatening to force the Texas legislature to convene for a special summer session if House Speaker Joe Straus doesn’t cave to Patrick’s demand that he pass several pieces of legislation, including a “bathroom bill.”

According to The Dallas Morning News, Patrick made his threat during a news conference on Wednesday. Patrick had called the news conference after a letter that Straus had written to him was leaked to the press.

In the letter, Straus asked Patrick to promise to work together to ensure passage of a two-year state budget and a sunset “safety net” bill that would allow various state agencies and boards to continue operating. If those two bills pass before May 29, Straus argued, there would be no need for Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session of the legislature.

But Patrick is accusing Straus of dragging his feet on bills that he wants to see passed, including SB 6, which would restrict municipalities from passing their own LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances and require transgender people using public restrooms to use the bathroom of their biological sex as assigned at birth.

Straus later issued a statement that failed to mention the bathroom legislation at all. Straus has previously expressed reservations about such a bill, calling it “unnecessary” and the problem it purports to address “manufactured.”

“Lieutenant Governor Patrick’s threat to force a special session unless he gets everything his way is regrettable, and I hope that he reconsiders,” Straus said. “The best way to end this session is to reach consensus on as many issues as we can. Nobody is going to get everything they want.”

But Patrick insists he’s just carrying out the will of Republican voters who elected him and the majority of state lawmakers. He says he’d be fine if the House either passed SB 6, which was approved overwhelmingly by the Senate in March, or created their own similar measure and tacked it onto another bill. 

 Chuck Smith, the CEO of Equality Texas, accused Patrick of throwing a “temper tantrum” that will “cost the state millions of dollars, put the funding of agencies at risk and hurt everyday Texans — so he can get one bill passed that discriminates against an already bullied group of kids, transgender children.”

“Discriminatory bills targeting transgender Texans could cost the state of Texas more than $5 billion dollars if we choose a path that encourages and legalizes discrimination,” Smith added. “The lieutenant governor needs to stop these public threats against an already marginalized and vulnerable population and stop wasting time during the 85th legislative session.”

But Patrick may have an ally in Gov. Greg Abbott, who has called on lawmakers in Austin to pass a “bathroom bill.” As the only person who can call a special session, Abbott might decide to do so if lawmakers don’t pass some sort of restrictions on transgender people’s bathroom habits before the session adjourns on May 29.

In response to Abbott’s support of a “bathroom bill,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, took to Twitter to lambaste the governor, calling his prioritization of such a measure “shameful.” 

The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of Latino advocacy organizations, has come out in opposition to not only SB 6 but other anti-LGBTQ pieces of legislation, including a bill that could block transgender students from participating in high school sports, and another that would allow adoption or child placement agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ prospective parents or same-sex couples.

“For LGBTQ Latinos who are already under attack from various anti-Latino and anti-immigrant federal and state policies, the efforts of state legislators to discriminate against people who are LGBTQ will further marginalize our LGBTQ Latino familia in Texas,” Hector Sanchez Barba, chair of NHLA and executive director of the Labor Council for Latin America Advancement, said in a statement. 

“The anti-LGBTQ bills being advanced in the Texas state legislature are not sincere attempts to address the real needs of Texans, but are instead efforts by politicians to make political gain at the expense of vulnerable populations,” he added. “Bills that enshrine discrimination into state law are wrong and should be rejected.”

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