Texas Senate Passes Anti-Trans Bathroom Bill, Now Closer to Becoming Law No One Asked For

feature image by Ralph Barrera—Austin American-Statesman/AP

Yesterday, the Texas Senate approved SB6, which would require transgender people to use public restrooms in government buildings, public schools and public universities that matches their “biological sex.” The bill would also block local anti-discrimination bills, like those found in Austin and Dallas, that protect trans people and their right to use the public bathroom that matches their gender. The bill would not apply to private businesses or public buildings leased by private businesses. The vote 21-10 was mostly down partisan lines with one Democrat, state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. from Brownsville voting in favor of the bill. The bill moves on to the upper chamber for final Senate approval, which could happen as early as today, before it moves on to the House.

SB6, authored by Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, has been Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s priority this legislative session. Patrick, who talked about a “women’s privacy” bill months before the legislative session began, said in an interview on a Dallas radio station, that as lieutenant governor, it’s his job to “uphold Texas conservative values, and that’s what [he] did in the Senate.” 

For more than four hours, the Senate debated over the bill, with Democrats saying the bill would discriminate against trans people and deter sporting events and businesses away from Texas and Republicans insisting the bill is about the safety and privacy of women and girls.

Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat, called the bill unnecessary and pointed out it’s already illegal to harass or assault someone in a bathroom or anywhere in the state. Sen. Jose Rodriguez, a Democrat, called the legislation a result of “lack of understanding” and fear of transgender people.

Kolkhorst defended the legislation and cited that trans people could change their birth certificates to reflect their gender. However Democrats shot back that it requires a court order, which isn’t feasible for many trans individuals in the state.

Before voting on the bill, Senators considered 22 amendments, with the majority of them coming from Democrats trying their best to curb the bill’s limitations and blatant discrimination towards trans people. Sen. Rodriguez even tried to add amendments to the bill that would exempt trans people from SB6 and protect existing local LGBT anti-discrimination laws. All amendments were rejected by Kolkhorst, the bill’s author, except for three which make minor adjustments to the legislation but doesn’t dramatically alter the bill.

The Senate vote follows an emotional 13-hour State Senate Affairs Committee hearing last week which drew 2,000 people to the capital with the majority of the them opposed to the bill. More than 400 people signed up to testify in front of the committee, the majority of them also opposed to the bill. The bill passed easily there with a vote of 8 to 1.

If approved by the upper chamber, the bill will be move forward to the House, which is dominated by Republicans but whose members are not as eager to take it up. House Speaker Joe Strauss, a Republican, has said the bill is a distraction and will be a burden to the state’s economy. 

Yvonne S. Marquez is a lesbian journalist and former Autostraddle senior editor living in Dallas, TX. She writes about social justice, politics, activism and other things dear to her queer Latina heart. Yvonne was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter. Read more of her work at yvonnesmarquez.com.

Yvonne has written 205 articles for us.

5 Comments

  1. I know a little about this game. Follow me, if ye dare, into the gnarly thickets of the Texas Legislature…and keep in mind: these are all Republicans.

    I’m almost certain this thing won’t pass the House. This has been coming along in the Senate, slowly, since January. The Lt. Gov., as State Senate president, is unusually powerful compared to other Lt. Govs., and so he gets what he wants in the Senate. But to me the most important line in Yvonne’s article is the last one; because the Speaker, Joe Straus, loathes the Lt. Governor, Dan Patrick.

    Joe Straus’s friend, whose name I’ve forgotten, was supposed to get elected Lt. Gov. in ’14. It would’ve been great, for the two of them. But this guy was knocked off in the primary by a far-right fanatic, Dan Patrick, just like Ted Cruz had primaried Kay Bailey Hutchison, the former US senator. So instead of dealing with a rational Republican as Senate Preznit, he’s dealing with Dan. The Establishment Republicans were very unhappy after 2014. Joe in particular was not happy with Dan. And Joe knows that traditionally, the real enemy is not the other party, it’s the other house. So Joe will not help Dan.

    The greatest single mercy of the Texas Legislature is that is must end after 140 days, on June 1st, then they’re gone for a year and a half. They have to write a two-year budget, and they can’t call themselves back into special session. Only governors can do that, and they control the agenda when they call a 30-day special session, and Gov. Abbott doesn’t have any reason, at all, to do Patrick any favors either.

    The bill has to clear a series of committee hurdles in the House. It won’t make it. It’s March 15th already, and the next few weeks will see most of the bills introduced back in January die quiet deaths in subcommittee meetings and calendaring sessions, pushed far down lists of things that will not get done. Unless some committee chair makes it a point to bring the damn thing to the floor and force a debate — to the tremendous annoyance of the Speaker — it will die. I am 99.44% certain, as almost certain as I can be, as a politics geek and a former Texan. Best place to follow this sort of thing, if you really want to or have to, is TexasTribune.org, their focus is Austin politics.

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