Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick unveils transgender “bathroom bill” at news conference

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Photo Credit: Emmanuel Briseño | Daily Texan Staff

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced Thursday legislation requiring transgender individuals to use public restrooms and changing facilities based on the sex reflected on their birth certificate.

Senate Bill 6, authored by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, would overturn local government ordinances and university policies allowing transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice.

Patrick has said for the past few months the “bathroom bill,” or what he coined as the “Women’s Privacy Act,” will prevent male sexual predators from intruding on women in private spaces.

“We know it’s going to be a tough fight,” Patrick said. “But we know we’re on the right side of the issue. We’re on the right side of history.”

UT is among several universities that have pushed for gender-neutral bathrooms. In 2015, the Austin City Council approved an ordinance requiring businesses to change the signage of individual-use restrooms to gender-neutral.

According to the bill, government buildings must also adopt policies that designate its multiple-occupancy restrooms or changing facilities to be used by people based on the sex listed on their birth certificate.

The bill defines changing facilities as anywhere “a person may be in the state of undress,” such as changing rooms, locker rooms and showers.

Kolkhorst, who spoke alongside Patrick at the press conference, said she is concerned for people’s privacy and disagrees with Obama Administration policies mandating public school districts to allow transgender individuals to use the facility of their choice.

"This is a significant step for the majority of Texans who are alarmed by misguided efforts to shatter our expectations of security and privacy, especially for our children," Kolkhorst said. "Senate Bill 6 may have my name on it, but the responsibility falls on all of us to protect citizens and ensure that their personal and private rights are secured."

According to the bill, school districts and open-enrollment charter schools may accommodate transgender individuals with individual occupancy restrooms and changing facilities but not for multiple-occupancy ones.

Chuck Smith, executive director of the LGBT advocacy group Equality Texas, said the Texas bill oppresses transgender individuals.

“Any legislation that would seek to target any group of people for discrimination, I would contend, is morally bankrupt and wrong,” Smith said. “I would hope most lawmakers could take a stand on the legislation and oppose it solely for those reasons.”

The bill mimics North Carolina legislation passed last March preventing businesses from allowing bathroom usage based on gender identity. Businesses and performers boycotted the state, claiming the bill discriminated against transgender individuals, resulting in detrimental economic losses.

On Dec. 21, North Carolina lawmakers met and failed to repeal the law, and Republican legislators were met with heavy criticism by transgender rights activists and supporters.

A Virginia legislator introduced Thursday his own “Physical Privacy Act,” similar to the other bathroom bills.

Complaints of government entities, universities and school districts violating such legislation would be made to Attorney General Ken Paxton and may face a civil penalty, with the first violation ranging from a fine of $1000 to $1500, according to the bill.