Over vociferous objections from the chamber's Democratic minority, the Texas Senate voted 21-10 late Tuesday afternoon in favor of state Senator Lois Kolkhorst's so-called "bathroom bill." The bill requires patrons of the state of Texas' publicly owned facilities to use the bathroom designated for the sex listed on their birth certificate.
Kolkhorst and Senate Bill 6's biggest patron, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, say that the bill is essential to protecting women from sexual predators. Opponents of the bill, including the state's LGBTQ community, Democrats and Texas business and tourism associations have decried the bill as discriminatory, unnecessary and bad for business.
"I think this bill is about discrimination against a certain group of our citizens, especially transgender people," Democratic state Senator Chuy Hinojosa.
This drew a hostile response from his colleague, Joan Huffman, who said Hinojosa and the media have twisted the intent of the bill's authors. “This bill is not about the transgender community, although the media and many members have tried to make it about that,” Huffman said, adding that there isn't a statute that currently bans men from women's rooms. “We were worried there would be folks who would use that to either stalk victims or terrorize victims.”
Texas does, however, have a law against harassing, accosting or assaulting someone in a restroom, Houston state Senator John Whittier responded. "We don’t need your bill to prosecute them," Whitmire said. In a search of all of the sex offenders in Texas prisons, Whitmire said, none committed their attack in a bathroom.
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Due to senate procedure, the bill will not be passed to the Texas House until at least Wednesday, the first day the senate can formalize the vote. When it does make it to the lower chamber, Senate Bill 6 is likely to have a tough time.
Joe Straus, the Republican Speaker of the Texas House, has expressed antipathy to the bill. "Clearly, I’m not a fan of the bill that they’re discussing," Straus said last week. "But I’m focused 100 percent on the House’s priorities. They have their agenda; we have ours. We’ll worry about our agenda and making progress on some issues that I think are important to every Texan."
After the initial debate, amendments to the bill rolled in. Requiring school districts to follow the proposed law was approved, as was raising the age under which kids could go to the restroom with their opposite sex parent from 8 to 10. Sylvia Garcia's amendment to define sex as gender identity, not a physical condition, was quickly defeated 21-10.