Despite Police Warning, Transgender Bathroom Bill Advances in Texas Senate
By Jeremy Wallace
A Texas version of a North Carolina-style "bathroom bill" targeting transgender people has again passed the state Senate, on Tuesday, July 25.
The bathroom bill that has divided Texans statewide continued its tenacious march through the Texas Senate Tuesday, unaffected by fresh warnings from police that the bill will make their jobs harder.
After nearly 8 hours of debate and questioning, Senators voted to let the latest bathroom bill advance to a final vote of the Senate as early as Wednesday.
Almost all Democrats in the chamber voted against the bill and emptied the Senate rule book looking for ways to kill the bill that they've labeled "discriminatory" toward Texas' transgender community. But given their minority status, the GOP leadership was able to swat aside their attempts and position the bill that they've called a priority for the special session for quick passage.
"This bill will hit, what I call, the reset button, and provide privacy and safety that Texans expect," Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, said.
Kolkhorst said the legislation is needed to provide statewide protections to women and girls so that they are not victims of voyeurs and other sexual predators who can exploit current laws gain access to women's bathrooms.
"Women do expect some privacy in those intimate settings," Kolkhorst said.
Under Kolkhorst's bill, people would be required to use the bathroom and changing rooms at public schools and charter schools corresponding with the sex on their birth certificates, even if they are transgender.
Advocates for the transgender community say the bill will force people who identify with one gender to use bathrooms with the opposite sex.
"There are hundreds of people who are going to get hurt," Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, said in a futile final speech before the Senate voted to move the bill forward.
Sen. Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat, said the bill essentially "marginalizes a vulnerable group" and is meant to discriminate against them.
The vote came seven hours after police chiefs from around the state called on the Senate to abandon the bill. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said there is no crisis in bathrooms now and the Legislature could be creating a distraction for police.
"It's bad law," Acevedo said. "It's bad political theater. And at the end of the day it is bad for Texas."
(c)2017 the Houston Chronicle