Anti-Trans Bathroom Bills Get A Makeover into “Privacy Acts,” Take Hold in These Six States

With just a few days into the new year, lawmakers in six states have already introduced new bathroom bills they’re calling “privacy acts” and ensuring we have a long year of battles ahead of us. Republicans in Alabama, Missouri, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas and Washington are fueling an anti-trans agenda that has gained momentum over the last couple of years and contributing to a long history of stifling the rights of trans people. Most of the bills are similar to each other and to North Carolina’s HB2, save for a few with different amendments and exceptions and coded in different language, but all in all it’s the same ole’ anti-trans bullshit. Here’s a breakdown of what each bill is about.

Texas, SB6

On Thursday during a press conference, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst introduced the Senate Bill 6, aka the Texas Privacy Act. Patrick started off the press conference by prefacing the bill as having support from the “overwhelming majority” including “Hispanics, African Americans, Anglos, men and women.” Patrick also condemned the media’s unfavorable coverage of the bill, saying they were spreading “misinformation” and called it “fake news.” Patrick revealed he had been working on the legislation since September 1st and said he had several senators supporting it, including Kolkhorst. Kolkhorst introduced the bill and said it was “not to start a controversy but to end one.” As Kolkhorst introduced SB6, boos erupted outside the press conference room from folks against the bill.

Here’s what SB6 entails:

+ It requires people to use bathrooms in government building, public schools and universities based on “biological sex.” Schools would be able to make accommodations, including single-stall bathrooms and changing rooms, for transgender students.

+ It would overturn local government non-discrimination ordinances that protect trans people like the ones already found in Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin and would allow each business to form its own policies.

+ It would enhance criminal penalties for crimes committed in public bathrooms, locker rooms or changing facilities.

When asked during the press conference how they would enforce the bill, Kolkhorst said they wouldn’t have a “bathroom police” and instead the bill would allow for people who feel “uncomfortable” in a bathroom to report it. She also said if schools or cities violate the bill, people can file a complaint with the attorney general to penalize the schools or cities. According to the Austin American-Statesman, “Civil penalties would be $1,000 to $1,500 for a first violation, rising to $10,000 to $10,500 for each additional day of violation.”

The Texas legislative session officially starts on Tuesday, January 10 and it’s uncertain how this bill will play out during the session. The bill has strong support from Patrick and the Senate, where Republicans outnumber Democrats. However, Republican House Speaker, Joe Strauss has different priorities this session that may derail the bill, according to the Statesman. The Texas Association of Business, a major business lobby group that usually supports conservative measures, have spoken against anti-LGBT legislation like SB6, saying it would negatively impact the state. They published a report late last year that estimates Texas could lose between $964 million and $8.5 billion and more than 100,000 jobs if the state passes discriminatory bills like SB6. Patrick dismissed their data and research as “misinformation.”

Virginia, HB1612

In Virginia, House Delegate Robert G. Marshall filed a bill to monitor transgender people’s use of restrooms in schools, government buildings and even rest stops. According to Marshall, his Physical Privacy Act is about student safety and he says he fears men and boys will try to enter women and girls’ bathrooms and changing rooms.

“Some guys will use anything to make a move on some teenage girls or women,” he said. “Mere separation of the sexes should not be considered discrimination.”

What’s different about this bill is it requires school principals to out trans students to their parents by notifying them when they ask to use a different bathroom and want to go by a different name or pronoun.

It’s possible that the bill won’t be passed. Even if the Republican controlled General Assembly passed it, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has”been clear that he will veto any bill that restricts the rights of Virginians based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” according to a spokesperson.

Alabama, SB1

Alabama Sen. Phil Williams from — get this — RAINBOW CITY, prefiled SB1, called the Alabama Privacy Act, before the holidays. It’s the same bathroom bullshit that other states have proposed, which is premised as a bill that “ensures the privacy of each individual making use of the restroom, bathroom, or changing facilities.” The kicker in Alabama’s law is that it would require an attendant outside any multi-sex restrooms in order to “to monitor the appropriate use of the restroom and answer any questions or concerns posed by users.” People who fail to follow the law would be fined least $2,000 for the first violation and at least $3,500 for each additional violation.

“But my legislation is designed to provide security to the public at large, and this bill could just as easily protect a transgender user of a public facility from being harmed as well,” Williams wrote in an op-ed back in May when the Obama administration released its trans bathroom directive. “The bottom line is that we have a right to privacy in place now; and liberals should not for a second think that Alabamians will simply stand by and allow the exceptions to throw out the rule.”

Washington, HB1011

As one of the most progressive states regarding LGBT rights, it’s something of a surprise to see Washington on this list. It was one of the first to enact marriage equality and has had a nondiscrimination law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity since 2006. Republican representatives in Washington prefiled a bill that would amend the Washington Law Against Discrimination in order to limit trans people’s access to bathrooms and similar facilities unless they’ve had genital surgery. The bill reads:

“Nothing in this chapter prohibits a public or private entity from limiting access to a private facility segregated by gender, such as a bathroom, restroom, toilet, shower, locker room, or sauna, to a person if the person is preoperative, nonoperative, or otherwise has genitalia of a different gender from that for which the facility is segregated. Nothing in this chapter grants any right to a person to access a private facility segregated by gender, such as a bathroom, restroom, toilet, shower, locker room, or sauna, of a public or private entity if the person is preoperative, nonoperative, or otherwise has genitalia of a different gender from that for which the facility is segregated.”

According to Rewire’s Legislative Tracker: “The bill is in response to new rules enacted by the Human Rights Commission in 2015 which allows trans people to use bathrooms based on their gender identity or gender expression.”

Missouri, SB98

Missouri’s “Student Physical Privacy Bill,” or SB98, was filed earlier this week and defines “biological sex” to mean whatever gender is on the student’s birth certificate and determined by chromosomes and anatomy. It bans trans students from using school restrooms, locker rooms, and shower rooms that correspond to their gender, and segregates trans students by only allowing them to use single-stall or unisex restrooms. This is the second time Senator Ed Emery has sponsored the bill, even though the first time the bill didn’t go very far during last year’s session.

South Carolina, H3012

Just like its sister state, South Carolina is trying again to pass an anti-trans bathroom bill. The bill, which was prefiled in December, would require people to use public restrooms or changing facilities according to their assigned gender at birth. It also prevents local governments from creating ordinances allowing trans people to use public bathrooms in accordance with their gender. The bill also tries to cover itself and says that the law isn’t discriminating against anyone. “A law or ordinance that requires a person to use such a facility designated for their biological sex would not constitute discrimination.”

Yvonne S. Marquez is a lesbian journalist and Autostraddle senior editor living in Dallas, TX. She writes about social justice, politics, activism and other things dear to her heart like Selena and tacos. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism and has since written and edited lots of gay stuff for the internet. Yvonne calls the borderlands home, strongly identifies with her Scorpio moon sign, and really hopes to crush the patriarchy soon. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.

Yvonne S. has written 202 articles for us.

27 Comments

  1. Also I’m confused by how these are expected to be enforced. Is everyone who ‘looks trans’ expected to carry their birth certificates everywhere? Or, since I’ve had mine changed, is the bathroom attendant also going to have access to my confidential medical records? Or perhaps have instant chromosome tests on hand? What. the. fuck.

    • I think for me that’s the sticking point. One of first things I did was change my paperwork, including my birth certificate. Legally speaking, I don’t think they have any grounds to prosecute people on the basis of appearance.

    • They are quite aware there’s no way to enforce this across the board… people don’t carry their birth certificates nor do the police have the resources, money (nor likely the inclination) to bust people for bathroom usage. What these bills are is a government-sanctioned open license to bully and intimidate trans women so that, situationally, anyone can kick a trans woman/girl out of a women’s room (and likely out of a men’s room too) knowing there won’t be any repercussions from the government. It gives tremendous power to hate groups, religious fanatics and self-appointed “protectors of women”… plus to people who are just transphobes and homophobes.

      The proposed Texas law doesn’t include trans men (supposedly because men can ‘protect’ their own restrooms). Thereby conveniently side-stepping the issue of male looking trans guys using the women’s room and focusing it on the designated monster of the moment… trans women. Doubtless if the Texas law passes, other states will reframe their laws in line with the Texas one.

      While there are a variety of ways to deal with such laws… boycotts and courts, there are flaws in both of those. I’m highly skeptical people are going to completely boycott their friends in Austin or Houston nor do I believe people will boycott something like SXSW or all Dell Computers, and Whole Foods. As to the courts, we’ve already seen that southern district federal courts (much less the Texas Supreme Court) have already been infiltrated with right wing ideologues. The only way to deal with such laws (assuming they go through… and some of them will) is by mass civil disobedience. That will require large numbers of cis women to join trans women in willing to get arrested. Are cis women willing to do that? That’s the real question which needs to be asked.

  2. Not to be outdone, Kentucky has introduced two House Bills for discrimination–HB 105 and 106. HB 106 is a “bathroom bill” and HB 105 is a “license to discriminate” which would override fairness ordinances passed in certain cities. Both of these House Bills were introduced by Democratic Rep. Rick Nelson. I’m not sure how many Kentuckians are on here but if you are a Kentuckian and feel so inclined, please call 800.372.7181 to speak to your representative and tell them to oppose both of these worthless, hateful bills.

  3. My wife was reading about the bill being introduced in our state over the holidays- way to feel the love. I’ve resisted the idea of moving, believing that we can be a positive force in our communities. Still things like this that would make my wife unsafe definitely push me towards being more open to moving.

  4. America, or at least pockets of America seems drawn to a need to discriminate against someone. We just can’t jump to a place where we treat each other with respect, as if the demonisation of others somehow elevates us above our transgressions in life.

    I deal with discrimination for a living. I hear horrid stories just about every workday – race & colour, disability, gender, age, creed, national origin, sexual orientation… At least I have a means of fighting back, one case at a time. Still, I’ve had enough.

    We are addressing trans related discrimination, but with the conservative wins this year, how much support we have for addressing it is an open question.

    Simple rule: spirituality does not condone discrimination. If a ‘religion’ points one towards discrimination, run the other way. No god worth a damn would ever condone it.

  5. “How,SPECIFICALLY, is this law going to be enforced?”

    The press needs to keep asking this one question, over and over and over and over, until one of these dumbass politicians answers.

    • It cannot be enforced without infringing on someones rights. Some trans women look more feminine than cis, some already have ID that clearly display female. The only way to know for sure is if they order a genital exam prior to going into the womens room.

      Don’t even get me started about muscle bound trans me with full beards and tattoos, talk about making women uncomfortable. I swear if anyone should completely abide by restroom laws it is these men. Women would lose their minds and in about 10 minutes the laws would be repealed.

  6. Does anybody know what is the public support of these awful laws?
    Are they just being proposed and approved by overzealous politicians or that the majority of the population in those states support them (and by no means I mean to say that this fact can condone the laws)?

          • I have a relative who awhile ago posted on Facebook about how liberals are too busy caring about who uses what bathroom when they should be focusing on more important issues. Thankfully, one of her friends posted reminding her that the “liberals” were fighting back against laws that conservatives were passing to discriminate against trans people; that it’s not liberals who are obsessed with who uses what bathroom, but rather conservatives. My relative responded saying she’d forgotten who “started that whole mess” and she thought people should be able to use whatever bathroom they wanted and we should stop fighting about it.

            I’m still just so frustrated that my relative:

            a) Is so willing to blame problems on “liberals”.
            b) Agrees with the liberals in theory but is unwilling to see why their fight is necessary.
            c) Doesn’t actually care about trans people enough to see how the conservatives are being discriminatory! She cares more that the news stop covering the bathroom nonsense and that politicians focus on something else than ensuring no one is discriminated against.

            I really needed to vent about that.

  7. I’m surprised they keep trying in WA. The last “bathroom bill” they tried was an attempt to get it on the ballot. They couldn’t even get enough signatures from WA residents to get it approved. There isn’t any popular support for these bills. Doesn’t make them any less terrifying or hurtful and there’s always a chance lies will win.

    • Yeah, I can’t see it going anywhere, and if it did, Inslee would veto it. It’s intended to raise money and raise fear, and sadly it will surely work on both of those levels. Folks should follow Washington Won’t Discriminate for resistance when the legislature gets back to work.

  8. instead the bill would allow for people who feel “uncomfortable” in a bathroom to report it

    UGH.

    You know what makes me uncomfortable in bathrooms? When strange men try to make me take their children go potty so that they don’t have to stand in line or come into contact with women washing their hands in public?

    You know what doesn’t make me uncomfortable in bathrooms? Having to walk past a person with a penis using a urinal to get to a stall. (Bathrooms are often coed here and a urinating penis-owner is not considered a threat to a vagina-owner)

    You know what makes me even less uncomfortable in bathrooms? The unseen genitals and gender identity of whoever is locked inside a stall I may or may not know is occupied.

  9. Considering we don’t do chromosome testing at birth and intersex people do exist, how is this going to work? Like remember that H&M ad from last Fall and how an Anti-LGBTQ group at first targeted the ad cause it included a trans woman, but instead of referring to out trans actress Hari Neff, they pointed to a cis woman who is a pro boxer/fighter. Will that happen again? Will butch and muscular women, and feminine men be targets for using the bathroom too? Also, aren’t there people who have actual X or O or some marker on their birth certificate to ID them as intersex/ambiguous.

    This is all too fucking messy, hurtful, and totally unnecessary. As someone who was kicked out of a bathroom in the gay part of Los Angeles no less for just peeing, this makes me want cry in sadness and fight in range for my trans siblings. FUCK

  10. What is confusing is where will I be mandated by law to go to the restroom? Since my birth certificate, drivers license and all my IDs all says female… Is my drivers license enough of an id or should I bring my birth certificate and will there be a pre-genital exam prior to entering?

  11. How will these laws affect intersex folks? Particularly laws that say that sex is determined by both birth certificate and chromosomes?

    I’m just past scared (for myself at least) and into Tired. I’ve been harassed for using a bathroom since I was a child. At this point I’m not sure why I expected that to eventually stop happening.

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