Bills to limit transgender-friendly bathrooms are on the brink of death, if not dead already, but that didn’t stop opposing sides from traveling to the Capitol on Monday to take a final stab at the special legislative session’s most contentious issue.
Opponents of the bills began the day by delivering petitions to Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican leaders that represent 50,124 Texans who have shown opposition to legislation that would require Texans to use restrooms and changing rooms that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate or other government document.
“We’re here to say Texans across the state won’t rest until the final gavel — and beyond that, we won’t rest until our leaders recognize that discrimination is reprehensible,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network.
Miller accused supporters of “telling lies to justify passing laws that discriminate against people simply because of who they are.”
“This legislation has never been about protecting women in public restrooms. That’s why organizations that advocate for victims of sexual assault have strongly opposed it,” she said.
Stephanie Martinez, who was recently assaulted in Austin for her transgender status, said bills targeting bathroom use fuel a “mob mentality” against transgender people.
“It doesn’t solve any problems. It will simply add to the danger the transgender community experiences on a daily basis,” Martinez said.
Supporters of bills to ban transgender-friendly bathrooms and changing rooms met outside the House chamber at noon to say their fight is not yet over.
Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton and author of a bill to prohibit transgender-friendly policies by schools and local governments, said he is looking for a way to revive his bill as an amendment before the special session ends Wednesday.
Although Simmons said he knew of no bills capable of taking such an amendment, “you never know what’s going to be breaking over the last couple of days that could give it a chance.”
“We’re going to fight to the end for amendment potential. I know the Senate’s doing the same thing,” he said. “This issue’s not going to go away just because we don’t handle it in the special session. This is going to continue to be an issue for the people of Texas. If we don’t deal with it now, we’re going to have to do it later.”
Jonathan Saenz, head of Texas Values, and Dave Welch, president of the Texas Pastor Council, said they will press Gov. Greg Abbott to call a second special session to tackle the issue.
“We insist and we expect those that we send to Austin to do what is right … not to kowtow and bow the knee to corporate threats who are demanding that if we don’t yield the safety and privacy and freedom of our women and children that somehow we will be punished by either refusing to come to Texas or leaving Texas,” Welch said.
Saenz blamed the downfall of Simmons’ bill, and a similar measure from the Senate, on two Republicans — House Speaker Joe Straus and State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook, who opposed the measure as unnecessary and harmful to the economy.
Predicting that the issue will continue to resonate, Saenz said a survey by his organization indicated that GOP primary voters are ready to vote against those who oppose bathroom limits.