The transgender bathroom battle is being hit straight-on in the Lone Star State. A state senator has pre-filed a bill which she says “seeks to put an end to a controversy that began in Washington D.C.”
National media outlets are already speculating on whether the fight will be similar to the one in North Carolina.
Texas State Senator Lois W. Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) filed Senate Bill 6, the “Texas Privacy Act” which she says is “a bid to address the personal privacy concerns of many Texans.” Kolkhorst called herself “a longtime privacy advocate” and added, “This bill is written not to begin a controversy, but to end one.”
The law, if passed, would enhance the penalties for “a litany of crimes committed in a bathroom against any individual, regardless of their sex or gender identity.”
As reported by Breitbart Texas in May, the Department of Education (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, sent a “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students” on May 13th to state and local agencies that receive federal financial assistance from the DOE. The policy allows students to use bathroom and other facilities that they “gender identify” with at the moment. The head of the Office of Civil Rights in the DOE thus joined with the White House legal arm, the DOJ, to send a letter which they said should serve as “significant guidance” to school districts. Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs that receive federal financial assistance. The common sense implication from the federal government for schools that do not comply with the federal policy – risk losing federal funding and potential lawsuits.
On May 25, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against the Obama Administration naming the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Justice, and other federal agencies and officials as defendants. At the time the lawsuit was filed, the Texas Attorney General said that the Obama Administration is “attempting to rewrite the term ‘sex’” in federal law and expand it to include the fluid concept of “gender identity.”
Texas was joined by ten states in “pushing back against enforcement of these unconstitutional rules.” Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin joined Texas in the lawsuit. Just as schools were starting back after the summer, the Texas AG obtained a federal court order blocking the Obama Administration’s mandate requiring public schools to allow transgender or gender fluid students to use the bathroom of their choice. In November,a federal judge ruled that the preliminary injunction applies to public schools nationwide.
Kolkhorst describes her bill as providing “clear state guidance to public schools and buildings and requires them to provide an expected level of privacy.”
The bill sets standards for public facilities and protects the right of Texas businesses to decide their own policy as it relates to bathroom or changing facilities. The Senate bill would prevent a political subdivision from adopting or enforcing an order, ordinance, or other measure that relates to the designation or use of a private entity’s bathroom or changing facility, nor may it require or prohibit the entity from adopting such a policy. Moreover, if a private entity leases a public facility such as a stadium or convention center, it may adopt whatever policy they wish for their event, Kolkhorst says.
“The Texas Privacy Act is a thoughtful solution to a sensitive issue. It preserves an expected level of privacy for our public schools and buildings. At the same time, it also allows for schools and universities to make personal accommodations for those requesting an alternate setting. Senate Bill 6 also allows Texas businesses to determine their own policy without government interference.”
To protect all people equally, Kolkhorst said the bill is unique to Texas in that it also enhances the penalties for a litany of crimes committed in a bathroom against any individual, regardless of their sex or gender identity. The state senator from Brenham, Texas, says she has been researching the issue for months and desires to “provide a practical solution that is in line with public expectations for privacy in public dressing rooms and restrooms.”
“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, she 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.”
After SB 6 was filed on Thursday, Attorney General Ken Paxton released the following statement of support:
“After our success in stopping President Obama’s bathroom rules in court, states are now free to enact legislation of their choosing to protect privacy. Texans should feel safe and secure when they enter any intimate facility, so I applaud the work of Lieutenant Governor Patrick and Senator Kolkhorst for fighting to protect women and children from those who might use access to such facilities for nefarious purposes.”
Opposition to the bill has already been voiced, and national media outlets, including the New York Times, are speculating about whether the fight “may spark North Carolina-like outrage.” North Carolina’s law, House Bill 2, garnered nationwide attention after it went into effect last year.
Texas author Rick Riordan, the author of the Percy Jackson series and other books, tweeted on Friday, “Just turned down an invite to be honored by TX state legislature as a Texas author. It they want to honor me, they should stop this nonsense.”
The ACLU tweeted:
Remember North Carolina’s anti-transgender bathroom law? Now Texas is trying the same thing. https://t.co/BN6S3Q3WYY via @voxdotcom
— ACLU (@ACLU) January 6, 2017
As extensively reported by Breitbart Texas, a protracted transgender bathroom battle in the City of Houston, Texas was eventually successful and the HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) was defeated by a margin of 61 to 39 percent when it was submitted to voters. The ordinance was the project of Houston’s first openly gay mayor, Mayor Annise Parker.
Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and associate judge in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.
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