A pared-down version of the transgender “bathroom bill” passed in the Texas House Sunday by a vote of 91-50.
While Senate Bill 2078 requires the state’s roughly 5.3 million public and charter school students to use the bathroom of the gender specified on their birth certificate, it also offers transgender students alternative bathroom facilities. Unlike Senate Bill 6, dubbed the “Texas Privacy Act,” this bill does not impact the general public.
These changes came in a floor amendment to S.B. 2078 introduced by Representative Chris Paddie (R-Marshall) on Sunday. It provides alternative bathroom arrangements like “single-occupancy” restrooms for use by transgender students “who do not wish to use the facilities designated for use or commonly used by persons of the student’s biological sex.”
Previously, S.B. 2078, authored by the Senate’s education committee chair Larry Taylor (R-Galveston), only addressed public and open-enrollment charter school “emergency operations plans and other safety school measures” in the event of a natural disaster, active shooter, and any other “dangerous scenario” identified by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) or the Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC).”
Said Paddie, “There is absolutely no intent and I would argue nothing in this language discriminates against anyone, in fact it makes sure there are reasonable accommodations for all children.”
Currently, the Interscholastic University League (UIL), the governing body over the state’s public school athletics and other competitive programs, determines student-athletes’ genders based on their birth certificates in cases where questions arise. North Texas transgender high school wrestler Mack Beggs, transitioning from female to male, had to compete against girls because of this rule.
In mid-March the Senate passed Senator Lois Kolkhorst’s (R-Brenham) S.B. 6. It required all transgender Texans to use bathrooms based on their biological sex, not on “gender identity” and applied to public buildings including at universities and courthouses. However, the bill died in the House. Reportedly, bathroom bill proponents and opponents consider the amended S.B. 2078 a compromise.
Over the weekend, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus released a statement about Paddie’s amendment, saying it “will allow schools to continue to handle sensitive issues as they have been handling them.”
Straus stated: “I believe this amendment will allow us to avoid the severely negative impact of Senate Bill 6.”
Previously, Straus opposed S.B. 6, calling it bad for business. The NCAA put Texas on notice that they were tracking the bathroom bill, the NBA warned Texas could be overlooked for future events because of the proposed “Texas Privacy Act,” and Hollywood celebrities professed their love for the Lone Star State but not for Kolkhorst’s bill.
“Members of the House wanted to act on this issue and my philosophy as Speaker has never been to force my will on the body,” said the Speaker. “Governor Abbott has said he would demand action on this in a special session, and the House decided to dispose of this issue in this way.
Last week, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick reiterated his position that this bill stood among his top legislative priorities and it needed to pass to avoid a special session. The 85th Legislature concludes on May 29.
This issue erupted a year ago when Fort Worth’s school district superintendent unilaterally enacted transgender bathroom and locker room policies without any input from parents and taxpayers. Attorney General Ken Paxton voiced concerns the policy violated the state’s education code by circumventing parental rights to know information about their children. Later, he led a 13-state complaint against the Obama administration over a nationwide bathroom directive issued by U.S. education and justice departments. It allowed transgender students to use bathrooms and other facilities based on “gender identity.” A federal judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, blocking the transgender directive.
S.B. 2078 goes back to a Senate conference committee where it is expected to pass. Then, it goes to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature.
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