Lt. Governor Dan Patrick unveiled Texas’ version of a so-called “bathroom bill” Thursday and opponents held an impromptu protest during the filing announcement.
Known as the Texas Privacy Act, Senate Bill 6 requires transgender people use public bathrooms that correspond with their “biological sex,” and not their gender identity, at public schools, universities and government buildings.
“You can mark today as the day that Texas is drawing a line in the sand and saying ‘no.’ The privacy and safety of Texans is our first priority not political correctness,” said Patrick.
The bill will protect children and anyone who uses a public restroom, shower, or locker room from predators, Patrick said.
The conservative Republican said the bill also protects businesses from government interference.
The bill prohibits city and county governments from passing local non-discrimination laws to allow transgender Texans to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity and not the gender listed on their birth certificate.
If the state’s privacy act is signed into law Patrick said business owners will have the freedom to determine their own rules and “no government will tell” a business what bathroom policies to enact.
Backlash over a so-called bathroom bill began in the middle of the filing announcement inside the senate press room at the Capitol in Austin.
Jeers from protesters could be heard as the author, Senator Lois Kolkhorst, detailed Senate Bill 6, which she described as “thoughtful and unique.”
Kolkhorst, a Republican who represents State Senate District 18, said she filed the bill to end a controversy, not start one.
Loud booing could be heard from inside the press room as Kolkhorst spoke but she continued without interruption.
“Ask a parent if they approve of allowing boys to shower in their daughter’s locker room?” Kolkhorst said, “They’ll likely tell you the safety of our children and personal privacy should be at the forefront.”
The leader of Equality Texas, Chuck Smith said, “A transgender girl is a girl and transgender boy is a boy.”
Smith said there is little to no evidence to suggest nondiscrimination policies allow sexual predators to freely enter women’s restrooms and locker rooms.
“It’s a false argument which is part of why this legislation is totally unnecessary,” Smith said.
If the privacy act was written to protect people from predators in public restrooms, Smith said, the bill would or should target predators and not transgender Texans.
“The reality is that any legislation that would seek to target people for discrimination I would contend is morally bankrupt and wrong,” said Smith.
North Carolina passed a similar law in 2016 and the state lost several big events, like the NBA All-Star game and the 2016–17 NCAA championship games.
“You’ve heard a lot about North Carolina, they have the second strongest economy in the country by Forbes magazine and many other indicators,” Patrick said North Carolina is doing “just fine.”
Forbes estimated North Carolina lost more than $600 million in the six months after the state’s former governor signed a bathroom bill into a law.
Patrick dismissed concerns over the impact the bill could have on the state’s economy. “It’s just more talk from the opponents who have nothing else to say because they can’t really defend the bill,” said Patrick.
He pointed to Houston’s nondiscrimination ordinance, known as HERO, which was shot down by voters in 2015.
Patrick said the nondiscrimination ordinance was “defeated in the only place in Texas where people have voted” on the matter.
Patrick also noted that although voters defeated “HERO,” Houston is still scheduled to host the Super Bowl next month.
The Texas Association of Business estimates discriminatory legislation, like a so called bathroom bill, could cost the state between $964 million and $8.5 million in economic losses and as many as 185,000 jobs.
“We know it’s going to be a tough fight,” Patrick said opponents will pull out all the stops to try to stop the bill. Patrick continued, “But we know we are on the right side of the issue and the right side of history.”
School districts and local governments that don’t comply are subject to civil penalty by the Texas Attorney General but the bill’s author, Kolkhorst, said there will be no “bathroom police.”
Kolkhorst and Patrick did not acknowledge or walk past the protesters, who began to chant “shame” when the press conference ended.
The Texas legislature will take up the bill during the 2017 session, which starts Tuesday, Jan 10.