At least 200 people gathered at the Texas State Capitol on Tuesday to express their support for and opposition to the “bathroom bill”.
Senate Bill 6 would mandate people to use the bathroom in public schools, government buildings and public universities that matches their “biological sex” – not the gender that they identify with. Critics say this bill would greatly discriminate against people who are transgender.
The bill would also reverse any local nondiscrimination ordinances that allow people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
Tuesday morning, as proceedings for the public hearing began, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), the author of the bill, pointed to a specified date when this controversy began.
On May 13, 2016 the United States departments of justice and education issued a joint guidance telling public schools to allow students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity or lose federal funding under Title IX for sex discrimination.
“It went into detail, not only about internalizing your gender, but that this should give access to everyone including sports,” she said. “And for me as a college athlete, as a female college athlete who was the benefactor of Title IX, I looked at that as an erosion of women’s rights. Now today you’ll hear people argue for and against it but I wanted to share my heart and my story.”
The Trump administration has lifted the joint guidance, but KUT’s Senior Editor Ben Philpott says that’s not stopping the bill from going forward.
Philpott says of the hundreds of people signed up to testify at Tuesday’s hearing, most will likely be against the bill.
“There’s going to be some heated exchanges, or at the very least some heated testimony, by some people towards the senators,” Philpott says.
The testimony is not likely to change how members of the Senate State Affairs Committee will vote on the bill, Philpott says, and it’ll probably to make it to the Senate floor.
Republicans offered a newer version of the bill Tuesday with two main changes: it removed a section that would have enhanced penalties for specified crimes committed in bathrooms or changing rooms, and it added reasoning behind the bill into the proposed law itself.
“This is something that could be used when and if – or maybe most likely – the state will be sued if this bill were to become law,” Philpott says.
In the full Senate, 19 senators are needed to bring the bill up for a vote, but only 16 senators are needed to pass the bill to the House side. Although, Philpott says, the House doesn’t seem very interested in taking the bill up for a vote.
Written by Beth Cortez-Neavel.