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Could Texas Become the Next Trans Bathroom Battleground?

Could Texas Become the Next Trans Bathroom Battleground?

Rockwall Mayor Jim Pruitt
Rockwall Mayor Jim Pruitt

By striking against Target's recently announced bathroom policy, Rockwall, Texas hopes to send a message.

Texas is poised to become the next battleground in the debate over transgender bathroom use.

Rockwall Mayor Jim Pruitt, a Republican, proposed legislation on Friday that would fine trans people up to $500 for using the bathroom that most closely corresponds to their gender identity. The ordinance restricts bathroom access strictly to members of the same "biological sex," described as the "physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person's birth certificate."

"Citizens have a right to quiet solicitude [sic] and to be secure from embarrassment and unwanted intrusion into their privacy," the legislation reads, as the The Dallas Morning Newsreports.

"I just think that it's insanity not to have those protections in place," Pruitt told Dallas TV station, WFAA. "These folks aren't transgender that this is targeting. This is targeting folks of the opposite sex that are going into those restrooms under the guise of being transgender and having access ... This is not about sexual orientation or anything of that nature. It is about privacy and the protection of our children."

As Mark Hicks, who serves as a city councilman in Lufkin, Texas, argues, the reason that towns like Rockwall are drafting such legislation is in response to Target's recent decision to provide affirming restroom use for trans staff and customers in all its locations.

"I am among those who believe that the potential for abusive behavior by voyeurs, exhibitionists and sexual predators is increased exponentially with the implementation of this policy," Hicks wrote in a letter to the editor published in The Lufkin Daily News on Sunday. "It creates an unsafe environment, and it should not be allowed or encouraged. I do not believe my wife or three young daughters should have to be concerned about using public facilities anywhere -- and certainly not in a neighborhood staple like Target!"

In an April 19 press release, the company announced it would be making a commitment to inclusivity. "We stand for equality and equity, and strive to make our guests and team members feel accepted, respected and welcomed in our stores and workplaces every day," Target said. "We believe that everyone--every team member, every guest, and every community--deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally."

If Hicks promised to "work with city officials to draft a proposed ordinance to make [Target's] policy null and void within the city of Lufkin," it seems others may join him. Last week, Oxford, Alabama passed a similar ordinance fining trans people who use the bathroom that does not correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth. City Council president Steven Waits argued that it was necessary to "protect our women and children."

In addition, Texas' lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, wants to take Rockwall's campaign against Target statewide. In a statement posted to his Facebook account last Thursday, the Republican politician said, "I will not spend a single dollar with any business that says a man can enter a bathroom with the women in my family or your family." He also posted a petition to his website on Tuesday urging Texans to "keep men out of women's restrooms," according to Austin TV station, KXAN.

The lieutenant governor further explained that he would support legislation similar to North Carolina's House Bill 2, a controversial bill that struck down local nondiscrimination ordinances across the state. Since its March 23 passage, HB 2 has been condemned by over 160 major companies.

"This is not about equal rights," Patrick told KXAN in a Wednesday interview. "I am totally in favor of equal rights. I am not prejudice [sic] against anyone. But I don't want a man for any reason going into a woman's bathroom or a woman's locker room."

Patrick was at the forefront of the conservative fight against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, a proposed nondiscrimination bill that was voted down last November after persistent anti-trans backlash. "He filmed an ad that made HERO all about protecting women in bathrooms and also paid for probably the most controversial one out there, showing a man following a seven-year-old into a stall," The Houston Press reports.

That advertisement, which frequently aired on local television, played on the widely circulated "bathroom myth," which suggests that transgender people pose a threat to others in public restrooms. However, of the over 200 localities across the United States that allow trans people to use the restroom that corresponds to the sex they were assigned at birth, there's never been a single case of a trans person attacking someone else. Additionally, there are no reports of a cisgender person pretending to be transgender to enter the facilities of the opposite sex.

Rockwall's ordinance is reportedly scheduled to be voted on by its city council Monday.

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