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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Says 'Bathroom Bill' Not on His Agenda

Greg Abbott and Lupe Valdez
Greg Abbott and Lupe Valdez

The Republican, being challenged by out Dem Lupe Valdez as he seeks reelection, had previously backed such an anti-trans measure.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, long known for his anti-LGBTQ stances, now says passing an anti-transgender "bathroom bill" is no longer a priority for him.

"Not on my agenda," the Republican governor said in a debate Friday in Austin with Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez, the Washington Blade reports. He had backed such a measure last year and called a special session to deal with it, but the bill died without reaching his desk, due partly to opposition from business leaders who thought it would harm Texas economically. It would have allowed trans people to use only the restrooms designated for the gender on their birth certificate or on an ID issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety when they are in public schools and other government buildings.

In the debate, Valdez, an out lesbian who is the former sheriff of Dallas County, denounced such legislation. "There is a continual fearmongering, and I don't believe in laws that start out with fear," she said. "We need to stop the fearmongering in our laws and get down to what really matters to all Texans: to have an equal and fair opportunity in this state."

While Abbott said he would not push for a restroom bill, he declined to say unequivocally that he would not sign one if legislators passed it. "I won't sign hypothetical bills," he said when pressed by reporter Steve Spriester. "All I can tell you is what my agenda is, which I did, and what I'm going to be focused on during the session."

That agenda, he said, will consist of reducing property taxes, addressing gun violence in schools, creating jobs, arresting gang members, and aiding the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Abbott has compiled a long anti-LGBTQ record both as governor, a position he assumed in 2015, and in his previous post as Texas attorney general. In addition to supporting last year's restroom bill, he has fought against marriage equality, signed a bill allowing discrimination by faith-based adoption agencies that receive state funds, endorsed the denial of spousal benefits to married same-sex couples, and opposed the Obama administration's guidance on equal treatment of transgender students (guidance now rescinded by the Trump administration).

He is far ahead of Valdez in the polls and in fundraising; a Real Clear Politics averaging of the polls shows him with a lead of 19 percentage points. But Valdez, the first member of the LGBTQ community to win a major party's gubernatorial nomination in the Lone Star State, told The Advocate after her groundbreaking primary victory that Texas is not so much a Republican state as a nonvoting one, so improving turnout could make a difference. Her priorities include creating jobs with a livable wage, supporting public education, improving health care and advocating for the rights of immigrants, women, LGBTQ people, and other marginalized groups.

Other out LGBTQ gubernatorial candidates who could make history in November are Jared Polis, a gay man running for Colorado governor, and Christine Hallquist, a trans woman running for governor of Vermont. Kate Brown, the nation's first governor drawn from the out LGBTQ population -- she's bisexual -- is up for reelection in Oregon. All are Democrats.

Watch the exchange between Abbott and Valdez below.

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