Amid opposition from hundreds of businesses and moderate Republican lawmakers, a Texas measure that would restrict access to bathrooms in schools and public buildings according to the gender on a person’s government-issued ID appears to be dead, according to lawmakers.
The state Senate passed SB3 in July by a 20-10 vote, but it was never referred to the House. The House version, HB46, never made it to committee, making passage unlikely before the legislature completes its 30-day special session on Wednesday.
“The bathroom bill in this session is dead and buried with dirt over its coffin,” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston told Reuters.
Proponents of the measure, who argue open bathrooms expose women and girls to sexual assault, have hoped that passage in Texas would give momentum in other states to legislation that would protect against the movement to open restrooms according to “gender identity.”
The bill would regulate bathroom access and locker rooms for public buildings and schools based on birth certificates and other government-issued identification documents.
Lawmakers said the inclusion of the IDs was designed to accommodate transgender adults who have been unable to change their birth certificates but have updated their IDs.
The legislation also would prohibit a person whose birth certificate states their sex as male from competing as a female in athletic activities.
Reuters reported House Speaker Joe Straus, a pro-business Republican who controls the agenda in the body, has said the bill was not a priority.
The opposition was financed by major corporations such as the Texas-based energy companies Halliburton and ExxonMobil Global Services, which contend the bills are discriminatory and would make it hard for them to recruit top talent.
The author of the House version, State Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, told the Austin American-Statesman he will try to revive the bill as an amendment before the end of the day Wednesday. But he acknowledged he knew of no bills capable of taking such an amendment.
“We’re going to fight to the end for amendment potential. I know the Senate’s doing the same thing,” he said. “This issue’s not going to go away just because we don’t handle it in the special session.”
He told the Austin paper it will “continue to be an issue for the people of Texas.”
“If we don’t deal with it now, we’re going to have to do it later,” he said.
Dave Welch, president of the Texas Pastor Council, which successfully defeated a measure in Houston allowing bathroom access according to gender identity, said he will press Gov. Greg Abbott to call a second special session to address the issue. Welch was joined by Jonathan Saenz, head of of the non-profit Texas Values.
Welch, according to the American-Statesman, said they “expect those that we send to Austin to do what is right … not to kowtow and bow the knee to corporate threats who are demanding that if we don’t yield the safety and privacy and freedom of our women and children that somehow we will be punished by either refusing to come to Texas or leaving Texas.”
Simmons said his aim is to ensure cities and school districts, “don’t put into place policies that forces, for example, our school age children to shower together.”
“And I know that seems unrealistic that that would happen but believe me, that will happen if this bill doesn’t pass. That is going to happen in the next two years,” he said, according to KVUE-TV in Austin.
‘Inconsistent with our values’
Two WNBA stars wrote an op-ed for NBC News published Monday opposing the legislation.
Brittney Griner and Layshia Clarendon charged the Texas Senate bill “would make it impossible for cities and school districts to proactively protect LGBTQ people in restrooms, locker rooms, and other changing facilities.”
“In turn, Texas would be subjecting trans athletes to harassment, bullying and possible assault.”
Shortly after the Super Bowl in Houston in February, the National Football League warned Texas that passage of a previous version of the bathroom bill could impact future decisions about the location of major sporting events.
“The NFL embraces inclusiveness. We want all fans to feel welcomed at our events and NFL policies prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement at the time.
“If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law [in Texas], that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events.”
A similar bill in North Carolina was partially repealed in March after businesses and athletic organizations such as the Atlantic Coast Conference, the NBA and the NCAA threatened to reevaluate decisions and move events out of the state.
The WNBA players said that while they “do not identify as transgender, we know what it feels like to be singled out for not fitting neatly into social norms.”
“We have often been subjected to scrutiny and harassment for our gender expression,” they said.