Published: Wed, May 24, 2017
National | By Rosalie Gross

Texas Moves Forward With "Bathroom Bill" Legislation

Like HB2, Senate Bill 6 in Texas also prohibited cities from passing ordinances that would violate the law by allowing transgender individuals to elect which bathroom they will use.

The Texas House gave final approval Monday morning to a bill banning transgender-friendly bathrooms in the state's public schools, turning down one final Democratic amendment that would have allowed schools to opt out of the law.

Texas has become the second state to pass a so-called "transgender bathroom bill", but unlike North Carolina's version, Texas' is narrowly tailored to impact only public school students. That bill passed the state Senate, but has been held up in the House. Some school districts in Texas allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity both through formal policies or on a case by case basis.

A stricter measure, more in line with North Carolina's House Bill 2, passed the more conservative state Senate earlier this year.

Democratic state Representative Senfronia Thompson noted this issue, drawing comparisons between the bill and Jim Crow-era laws enforcing segregation between races.

"I'm willing to stay as long and until the place we're staying in ... freezes over, until we get that bill" passed, Patrick said during the bill-signing ceremony, with Abbott seated behind him.

The bill comes as legislators race through the final days of the legislative session to pass bills changing how the Department of Family and Protective Services helps abused and neglected children.

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"I share Governor Abbott's concern about the lack of a rollback provision in Senate Bill 669 on property taxes", Patrick said. "Texas is better than what the House did tonight".

The bill's sponsor, Senator Charles Perry, a Republican from Lubbock, told colleagues that his proposal is "not meant to discriminate" against anyone and repeatedly told Democrats that it would put the child's needs first.

Conservative politicians in Texas have agitated strongly for the measure despite the backlash against such a law in North Carolina, which involved economic boycotts and attempts to repeal it after it was introduced past year.

Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement the measure "is a risky, discriminatory bill" that represents anti-LGBT animus "coloring so much of the Texas Legislature this session".

The ACLU of Texas on Sunday said the Texas legislature approved "discriminatory measures against LGBT Texans". But House Speaker Joe Straus, a Republican from San Antonio, has been even more vocal in opposition. The NCAA pulled sporting events and the state faced losing billions of dollars in related economic fallout, though some opposition has quieted since North Carolina lawmakers voted in March for a partial repeal.

Drew Scheberle, Senior Vice President of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, said that while the bathroom bill debate has "certainly gotten a lot of attention", it's not the only problem before the legislature that affects business.

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