Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick today released the details of his controversial proposal aimed at limiting transgender access to public bathrooms.
“The people of Texas elected us to stand up for common decency, common sense, and public safety. This legislation codifies what has been common practice in Texas and everywhere else forever—that men and women should use separate, designated bathrooms,” Patrick said at a Capitol press conference.
The bill—dubbed the Texas Privacy Act—would include penalties for public schools that do not restrict access to restrooms, changing rooms, and showers to match a person’s assigned gender at birth. But the bill also allows schools to provide single-person bathrooms for transgender students.
“You can mark today as the day when Texas is drawing a line in the sand,” Patrick said.
One potentially far-reaching provision would negate any local nondiscrimination ordinance that can be interpreted as telling a private business how to manage its own bathrooms.
The bill also will include increased penalties for persons who commit crimes such as assault or being a Peeping Tom in a bathroom, changing room or shower. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Lois Kolkhorst, a Brenham Republican, said the legislation leaves it up to individuals to report someone who’s entered a bathroom that doesn’t match their birth gender. “Are we going to have bathroom police, no,” she said.
Similar legislation in North Carolina created a national uproar over discrimination against transgender people because it would require people to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate. It led major corporations to halt business expansions in the state, and professional and amateur sports authorities to cancel championship tournaments there. A Texas corporate coalition, led by the Texas Association of Business, estimates Patrick’s bill could cost Texas as much as $8.5 billion in lost economic revenue and has noted that the legislation could lead to the cancellation of the NCAA Final Four Tournament planned for San Antonio in 2018.
Patrick said he saw no similar economic impact after Houston defeated its non-discrimination ordinance in 2015. He said the Texas Association of Business study was based on misinformation and “fake news.”
Leading up to today’s news conference, Patrick had been pushing the legislation through his Twitter account. He republished a survey done for his campaign last year showing that 69 percent of Texas voters, including 56 percent of the Democrats, thought it should be illegal for a man to enter a women’s restroom. But the survey apparently did not ask for opinions on transgender women using a women’s room.
Patrick also did an In Case You Missed It post on an Amarillo Globe editorial that blamed the Obama Administration and liberals for making transgender bathrooms an issue by mandating public schools accommodate transgender students and their needs. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton won a temporary injunction last year that put those Obama rules on hold. But the Globe blamed Obama for turning bathrooms into what it called a time-wasting issue:
It is primarily liberals and “progressives” that have pushed the restroom issue on America.
It was the Obama administration that saw fit to force public schools to comply with its mandate that students can pick and choose which restroom they use, regardless of gender. And those school districts that did not bow to the federal government’s wishes faced a not-so-thinly veiled threat of a loss of federal funds.
School districts that have the audacity (sarcasm noted) to want students to use the restroom that corresponds to science have little choice but to look to their state governments for help when the federal government issues its edicts. And this is precisely why the Texas Legislature will more than likely take up the issue.
But conservatives also made an issue out of bathrooms during the debate over Houston’s non-discrimination ordinance. Patrick and Governor Greg Abbott joined local pastors in boiling the whole debate on the nondiscrimination ordinance down to “No Men in Women’s Restrooms.” Patrick said the Houston ordinance would allow a male pervert to enter a women’s restroom merely by claiming he is a woman in his heart. But most transgender people live their lives as the sex opposite of their birth, dressing in gender-appropriate clothing or undergoing hormone therapy or surgery to physically become the opposite sex. There already are state laws to punish peeping Tom’s and sexual assault. And there have been no known cases of a transgender person acting inappropriately in a bathroom.