Dan Patrick unveils Texas transgender bathroom bill


Bill would bar transgender-friendly city ordinances, require school bathrooms be based on “biological sex.”

Critics predict passage would invite a backlash from businesses, entertainers and sports leagues.

Over loud boos from a dozen protesters outside the state Senate chamber, two Republican leaders unveiled legislation Thursday that would crack down on local laws and school policies requiring bathroom accommodations for transgender Texans.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Senate Bill 6 would “protect businesses from government interference” by overturning local ordinances that allow transgender people to use the bathroom that conforms with their gender identity. Each business would be free to form its own policies, he said.

The bill also would protect privacy and promote safety by requiring public schools and universities, as well as government buildings, to designate bathrooms for use by people “according to their biological sex,” said the bill’s author, state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. Schools would be free to make accommodations, including single-occupancy bathrooms and locker rooms, for transgender students, she said.

“We know it’s going to be a tough fight,” Patrick said. “The forces of fear and misinformation will pull out all the stops, both in Texas and nationally, but we know we are on the right side of the issue, we are on the right side of history.”

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Our Lone Star Politics page brings Capitol news to your Facebook feed

Critics called the bill discriminatory and predicted that if it were to pass, Texas would experience boycotts and backlashes from businesses, sports leagues, entertainers and travelers comparable to what happened to North Carolina when lawmakers there passed similar legislation last year.

“This bill isn’t about providing safety or privacy. It’s an attempt to foment divisiveness, stigmatize vulnerable students and distract us from what really needs our attention — more resources for our schools and educators,” said Louis Malfaro, president of the Texas branch of the American Federation of Teachers.

Chuck Smith with Equality Texas called the bill misguided.

“If we’re seriously interested in protecting people and trying to stop predatory behavior, then the target of the legislation should be predators. The target should not be transgender people because transgender people are more likely to be the victims of crime, not the perpetrators,” Smith said.

Patrick, who presides over the Senate, has said action was required to ensure that sexual predators don’t use transgender bathroom laws as a pretext for entering women’s bathrooms.

RELATED: Study: Anti-gay, transgender laws could cost Texas $8.5 billion

On Thursday, he and Kolkhorst called the bill a common-sense public safety measure that also would create harsher penalties for crimes committed in public bathrooms, locker rooms or changing facilities.

“The right of every Texan will be protected when they find themselves in the most intimate private setting,” Kolkhorst said.

Enforcement wouldn’t require “bathroom police,” Kolkhorst added.

The bill would allow citizens to file an attorney general complaint if a school or government enforced a prohibited transgender bathroom policy that wasn’t changed within three days. Civil penalties would be $1,000 to $1,500 for a first violation, rising to $10,000 to $10,500 for each additional day of violation.

TEXAS POLITICS DELIVERED EVERY DAY: Sign up for our Texas Politics email

The bill’s prospects are uncertain in the legislative session that begins Tuesday.

Particularly with Patrick’s strong support, passage can be expected in the Senate, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 20-11 (support from 19 senators is required to have a vote on most bills) and where the GOP caucus has grown far more conservative in recent years.

The House could prove to be a different matter. House Speaker Joe Straus has indicated that his priorities lie elsewhere, particularly addressing problems with Child Protective Services, improving the mental health system and reforming school finance to reduce the property tax burden on so-called property wealthy districts like Austin.

Strong opposition from the Texas Association of Business — joined by such large companies as Apple, IBM and Intel — also undercuts support from a source that Republicans typically rely upon.

The business group released a study last month warning that legislation like the transgender bathroom bill could cost the state’s economy up to $8.5 billion a year and threaten 185,000 jobs. Passage would bring boycotts affecting the travel and tourism industry; discourage businesses from relocating or expanding in the state; and make it difficult to recruit and retain talented workers to Texas, the study said.

RELATED: No transgender bathroom law, Texas businesses urge GOP

Patrick dismissed what he called “predictions of economic doom,” saying states with liberal transgender policies are at the bottom of the economic ladder, while states like North Carolina can boast of robust economies.

“You can mark today as the day of Texans drawing a line in the sand and saying no,” Patrick said. “The privacy and safety of Texans is our first priority, not political correctness.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the bill, saying it was made possible by last year’s court victory that blocked an Obama administration directive for transgender-friendly bathrooms and locker rooms in public schools.

“States are now free to enact legislation of their choosing to protect privacy. Texans should feel safe and secure when they enter any intimate facility,” Paxton said.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Traffic report for Monday, Feb. 26

Interstate 35 (Travis County): The northbound outside lane will be closed between Boggy Creek and Stassney Lane from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday nights. The William Cannon exit will be closed as needed. The southbound outside lane will be closed between Stassney and Boggy Creek from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday through Thursday nights. Reduced...
Split vote likely on removing Confederate names from Austin schools
Split vote likely on removing Confederate names from Austin schools

A split vote is expected Monday night as the Austin school board decides whether to remove Confederate names from five campuses. At least five of trustees, the minimum needed to move the measure forward, have expressed support for the measure. But others on the board continue to raise concerns about the name changes, saying the board’s action...
Catholic bishops sever ties to Texas Right to Life, exposing rift
Catholic bishops sever ties to Texas Right to Life, exposing rift

Exposing a deep and widening rift in the state’s energetic anti-abortion movement, the Catholic bishops of Texas have directed churches across the state to refrain from working with Texas Right to Life, which bills itself as the “oldest and largest statewide pro-life organization.” According to a written directive, Texas Right to...
FluMist returns for next flu season, but it won’t be for everyone
FluMist returns for next flu season, but it won’t be for everyone

Next flu season, most people will again have the choice between a flu shot and FluMist, an inhaled live virus vaccine. Last week, AstraZeneca, the maker of FluMist, announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend the vaccine for the 2018-19 season, two years after...
Amid complaints, Travis County judges change ‘jail reduction’ court
Amid complaints, Travis County judges change ‘jail reduction’ court

Two Austin defense lawyers are demanding Travis County discontinue a misdemeanor court docket they say pressures indigent defendants to accept bad plea deals — and even plead guilty to crimes they did not commit — in exchange for their release from jail. The Jail Reduction Docket is unconstitutional, perpetuates poverty and mirrors characteristics...
More Stories