Metro Weekly

Conservative Dallas suburb rejects anti-transgender restroom law

City Council refuses to second motion to hold a vote on the proposed law restricting trans people's bathroom use

Rockwall Mayor Jim Pruitt (Photo via Facebook).

Rockwall Mayor Jim Pruitt (Photo via Facebook).

LGBT Texans scored a small but meaningful victory this week after an anti-transgender law failed to gain enough votes to even be considered by the Rockwall City Council.

The law, proposed by Mayor Jim Pruitt, would have required transgender people to use only the bathroom designated for their biological sex at birth. Pruitt proposed the law in response to retail giant Target’s decision to allow transgender customers and employees to use the restroom that corresponds with their correct gender identity, raising the specter of men being given “unfettered access” to women’s restrooms.

But following three hours of debate, Pruitt could not find another City Council member to second the motion for a vote. This development came as a surprise to many, as four of the council members previously expressed support for a similar measure to “enhance public safety,” according to The Dallas Morning News.

Even after Pruitt suggested limiting his proposed ordinance to only apply to city property, he was still unable to muster any support from his colleagues.

Mayor Pro Tem Dennis Lewis said there was a simpler solution if people objected to Target’s new policy: stop shopping at the store — and, by extension, any other store that has a similar policy in place.

Prior to the meeting, the Dallas-based Trans Pride Initiative held a rally outside Rockwall City Hall, protesting the proposed ordinance. About 30 people in total testified for or against Pruitt’s proposal, with the bulk of speakers opposing it.

In addition to scaling back his ordinance, Pruitt also allowed exceptions for custodians, maintenance workers, emergency responders, adults accompanying children younger than 12 and those assisting disabled people to enter bathrooms other than those designated for their biological sex.

Steve Rudner, the chairman of Equality Texas, celebrated the defeat of Pruitt’s proposal while blasting the underlying assumptions behind it.

“The underlying assumption here is that something new is happening and children are at risk. In fact, there is nothing new happening,” Rudner told the Dallas Morning News. “There hasn’t been any problem in a bathroom in Rockwall. There is no news here. The only thing new is that someone is trying to pick on a marginalized group of people and make their lives more miserable.”

Rudner also said that his organization would oppose similar anti-trans actions in other cities, a promise that may be tested in the coming weeks and months. In the city of Lufkin, in East Texas, a city council member has already vowed that he will introduce a measure similar to Pruitt’s proposal that targets Target’s transgender-friendly restroom policies. Equality Texas may also have to fight the state legislature next year, as State Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) has promised to introduce a bill similar to North Carolina’s HB 2, which would prohibit local cities and counties from passing pro-LGBT ordinances. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), the presiding officer in the state Senate, has also said that the legislature should prioritize a bill legislating transgender bathroom use.

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

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