Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (left) – Photo: Office of the Lieutenant Governor
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) is under siege from a deluge of phone calls, emails or letters opposing his pet project, the so-called “Texas Privacy Act,” which would force individuals to use public restrooms based only on their biological sex at birth. But Patrick is dismissing the criticism as fear mongering by the political Left.
According to the San Antonio Express-News, Patrick’s office has received more than 10,000 types of correspondence opposing the act, also known as SB 6, compared to just 200 calls, emails or letters supporting it. Still, Patrick’s spokesman attributes the lopsided margin to an “orchestrated phone and email campaign organized by the left wing.”
By comparison, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has received more than 800 emails, letters and messages since last summer, with opinion largely evenly divided as to whether or not transgender people should be restricted from using bathrooms that match their gender identity. House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) received 200 pieces of correspondence during that time, most of which opposed any push for further transgender bathroom restrictions.
A number of people who contacted the three Republican leaders cited their own political leanings as Republicans when expressing opposition to a measure like the Texas Privacy Act.
“I was voting Republican before you could spell it. This is stupid. Do I wear my birth certificate and driver’s license on my shirt before I make a bathroom call or do I just drop my pants before I go in so that someone can check the plumbing?” one rancher wrote in an email to Abbott’s office. “I don’t vote for stupidity. Don’t expect another vote from me if you support this.”
But public polls seem to paint a contradictory picture of where Texans stand on the issue. Patrick has cited a poll by Baselice & Associates from November, which asked whether it should be illegal for a “man” to enter a public women’s restroom, locker room or shower. Sixty-nine percent of Texans supported making that illegal, although there was no specific mention of transgender people in that poll.
A memo from the polling firm said that support didn’t change when people were told “some business groups say that passing a law to prohibit men in women’s restrooms would look discriminatory and hurt business,” while also adding that Texas lawmakers were concerned about sexual predators. In other words, the poll was heavily biased in favor of Patrick’s position in the way it worded the questions.
That said, another poll, from the University of Texas and Texas Tribune, which was conducted in October, found that a majority of Texans want transgender people to use restrooms based on their birth gender rather than their gender identity. Among Republicans, that number increases to more than three-in-four.
Patrick’s spokesman, Alejandro Garcia, told the Express-News that the polling data “stands in sharp contrast to this orchestrated phone and email campaign organized by the left-wing after a misinformation blitz targeting Senate Bill 6. The vast majority of Texans support the Texas Privacy Act and are counting on the lieutenant governor’s leadership in getting the bill passed. We have not requested that supporters call or email our office.”
While opponents of the bill have urged their contemporaries to contact their elected officials to express opposition, the person who holds the key to whether the bill could pass is Straus. Given Patrick’s support of SB 6 and the ideological makeup of the state Senate, it is likely the measure will pass easily. But more Texas House members, including a number of Republicans, are wary of taking any action that might make them a target of economic boycotts similar to those unleashed on North Carolina after the passage of its controversial HB 2 law.
According to the official tally received from Straus’ office, the House Speaker received 174 calls or written communications opposing the idea of legislating transgender people’s access to public restrooms, two calls opposing discrimination in general, and seven comments and calls supporting the idea that serves as the basis for the Texas Privacy Act.
Straus has previously dismissed the bathroom bill as a distraction
that “could make Texas less competitive for investments, jobs and the highly skilled workforce needed to compete.” In a speech at a legislative conference sponsored by the Texas Association of Business in January, Straus said: “We want to continue [our state’s economic] success and we want Texas to keep attracting the best and the brightest. One way to maintain our economic edge is to send the right signals about who we are.”