“San Antonio Ordinance to Allow Men into Women’s Restrooms,” says an Aug. 15 email from Texas Values, an Austin-based advocacy group that says it seeks to support “family values.”
The email and an Aug. 13 post on the group’s blog mentioned a new California law giving public school students access to either gender’s sports teams, locker rooms and bathrooms. The blog entry said the San Antonio City Council would soon consider a “similar policy” that “makes it illegal to deny ‘facilities’ because of a person’s ‘gender identity.’ These facilities are commonly understood to include bathrooms, locker rooms, and other changing facilities.”
The San Antonio City Council on Thursday will consider a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance that has been hotly debated. As the San Antonio Express-News reported, the proposal would consolidate the city’s “hodgepodge” of anti-discrimination policies and add protection for sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status.
Texas Values president Jonathan Saenz said his group was referring to Section 2-592 in an Aug. 7 draft of the ordinance, which said, “It shall be unlawful for any person, or any employee or agent thereof within the city, to discriminate against, withhold from or deny any person, because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age or disability, any of the advantages, facilities or services offered to the general public by a place of public accommodation.”
The city issued a revised draft Aug. 28 that added this sentence: “Nothing herein shall be construed as directing any policy or practice regarding the use of restrooms, shower rooms, or similar facilities which have been designated for use by persons of the opposite sex.”
According to Councilman Diego Bernal, who spearheaded the proposal, neither version would have addressed who could enter which restroom. Rather, he told us, both would protect people from being turned away entirely — not allowed to use any restroom at all — based on their gender identity.
A fact sheet published by the city says the proposal does “not change any bathroom, dressing room or locker room policies currently in place.”
But Saenz argues that the courts will have the ultimate say on how the ordinance is carried out.
The American Civil Liberties Union said on its website that while some jurisdictions across the U.S. have specified that denying transgender people access to the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity is discrimination, courts have also ruled the other way.
Transgender groups’ swift opposition to the Aug. 28 revision bolsters his view, Saenz said, because their reaction made it clear they expected the ordinance would let them use the restrooms of their choice.
Spokesman Michael Diviesti of GetEqualTX, an education and advocacy group that started a petition protesting the ordinance’s revisions, told us that by specifying bathroom policies would remain unchanged, the Aug. 28 version effectively stripped protection that the Aug. 7 draft offered to transgendered people.
Ryan Kellus Turner, general counsel for the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center, told us there is no Texas law specifically saying whether men or women can enter bathrooms designated for the opposite gender.
Our ruling: We found nothing in law that says San Antonio men can’t go into women’s restrooms now, or vice versa. The proposed ordinance does not intend to change that. We rate the group’s statement as False.
Statement: Proposed San Antonio ordinance will allow men into women’s restrooms.