The Texas Senate has given final approval to an anti-transgender “bathroom bill,” sending it on to the House of Representatives.
The Senate passed Senate Bill 6 today by a vote of 21-10, the same total as a vote taken Tuesday, The Dallas Morning News reports. Procedural rules made the second vote necessary.
The bill “would require people to use restrooms in public schools, universities and government buildings that match the ‘biological sex’ noted on their birth certificates,” according to the Morning News. It would also override any city ordinance allowing people to use government buildings’ restrooms, locker rooms, or dressing rooms comporting with their gender identity. Private businesses or public buildings that are leased out to private contractors would be free to set their own policies.
The Senate vote came mostly among party lines, with one Democrat joining Republicans to support SB 6. The House also has a Republican majority, but its members are generally less enthusiastic about the measure, the Morning News reports.
During an extensive debate on the bill Tuesday, some supporters denied that it targeted transgender people, while others acknowledged it did. “This bill is not about the transgender community, although the media and many members have tried to make it about that,” said Republican Sen. Joan Huffman, according to the paper. “We were worried there would be folks who would use that to either stalk victims or terrorize victims.” She noted that it is not currently illegal for a man to enter a women’s restroom, although any misconduct there can result in arrest and prosecution.
Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., the lone Democrat voting for the legislation, said he was out to protect children. Government should not “indoctrinate children in gender theories and other mature topics they may not comprehend,” he said.
Several Democrats spoke out against the bill and offered amendments aimed at softening it, most of which failed to make it into the text. Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat, brought up the problem of transgender men being forced to use women’s restrooms, calling it dangerous and disruptive for both women and trans men, the Morning News reports.
“That, to me, is a fatal flaw in your legislation,” he told Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, the lead sponsor. “I’m prepared to stand here until hell freezes over to get an answer.” Kolkhorst replied, “I do not have an easy answer for you. Nothing is easy about this.”
Kolkhorst said transgender people can change the gender on their birth certificate, but others pointed out that this process is costly and time-consuming, and in some cases, they are not allowed to make the change. She also said, mistakenly, that a driver’s license would reflect the birth certificate; this is not always the case, as there are separate procedures for each document.
Some opponents of the measure not only brought up dangers to transgender people but warned that Texas could suffer a loss of business like that experienced by North Carolina because of its anti-LGBT House Bill 2, which contains similar restroom provisions.
The National Center for Transgender Equality quickly condemned today’s vote. “By voting this bill through, the Texas Senate has officially declared that the 125,000 transgender adults and thousands of trans children who live in Texas are second-class citizens,” executive director Mara Keisling said in an emailed statement. “Trans people in Texas have it hard enough. These legislators are supposed to help their constituents, not add to the struggles they already face. We urge representatives in the House to do the right thing for all Texans and vote against this discriminatory bill.”
So did Freedom for All Americans. “SB 6 is dangerous legislation that will hurt transgender people – especially transgender kids — all across Texas,” said Matt McTighe, Freedom for All Americans executive director. “This Senate vote was driven by one motive, and one motive only — discrimination. It’s more important than ever to support transgender youth, and instead some Texas lawmakers are bent on making life even harder and scarier for them. We’re committed to ensuring this bill doesn’t ever move out of the House, but there’s no doubt that today is a dark day for the Texas Senate.”
“After hearing an outpouring of opposition to this bill during nearly 20 hours of citizen testimony last week, it’s outrageous that the Texas Senate would advance SB 6 to the House,” added JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president of policy and political affairs of the Human Rights Campaign. “This measure is another product of [Texas Attorney General] Dan Patrick’s anti-LGBTQ agenda, and it’s troubling that lawmakers in the Senate cannot see it for what it truly is: an attack on their transgender neighbors, coworkers and friends who deserve the same dignity and rights as anyone else. We hope the House members recognize this and stop SB 6 in its tracks.”