During the 2015 debate on the Houston anti-discrimination ordinance, Governor Greg Abbott was among those calling for its repeal based on the idea that there should be no men in women’s restrooms—in his mind, that meant transgender women. But during this year’s legislative debate over whether to limit access to bathrooms in government buildings to the gender listed on a person’s birth certificate, the governor has avoided the heat of the debate until Tuesday.
In a statement to the Texas Tribune, Abbott expressed support for HB 2899 by Representative Ron Simmons, a Carrollton Republican. Unlike the legislation passed by the Senate, which specifically focuses on a line on a birth certificate, Simmons’ bill simply overturns local anti-discrimination ordinances.
“I applaud the House and Senate for tackling an issue that is of growing concern to parents and communities across Texas who are now looking to the Legislature for solutions,” Abbott said in the statement. “Rep. Simmons is offering a thoughtful proposal to make sure our children maintain privacy in our school bathrooms and locker rooms.”
Soon afterward, Abbott added on his Twitter account: “I support the principles of both the Senate & House to protect privacy in bathrooms. We will work to get a bill to my desk.”
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) April 18, 2017
The Dallas Morning News reported on Monday that the language of the bill not only would overturn local ordinance protections for the LGBT community, but also protections for the elderly and military veterans.
Simmons’ bill would forbid cities, counties and school districts from passing regulations affecting bathroom use for any class of people who aren’t already protected in state or federal law. This means any city that’s extended its public accommodations laws beyond race, religion or national origin would not be able to enforce these rules when it comes to bathrooms.
Fort Worth and Austin have both added “age” as a protected class. If the House bill passes, neither city would be able to defend an elderly person who claims they were denied access to a shower or other intimate facility because of their age…
San Antonio added veterans as a protected class three years ago, the same time they extended their anti-discrimination laws to the LGBT community. City officials said they would be unable to enforce those protections if the bill becomes law.
House Speaker Joe Straus has publicly opposed the Senate bill, and his spokesman Jason Embry, when asked about the Simmons’ bill, said that the speaker’s position had not changed.
Major businesses and professional and amateur sports organizations have expressed concern that the Senate legislation is discriminatory. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has indicated it might pull the Final Four basketball tournament in 2018 out of San Antonio if Senate Bill 6 passes. Simmons’ bill is supposed to have a hearing in House State Affairs on Wednesday.