The Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would require transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex they were assigned at birth. Known as the "bathroom bill," Senate Bill 6 passed on a 21-10 vote along party lines.
“We’re protecting the privacy, safety and dignity of all Texans,” the bill’s author, Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, tweeted after the vote. The bill now goes to the Texas House of Representatives.
Supporters say the bill would stop sexual predators from committing crimes in bathrooms; critics argue there’s no evidence a problem actually exists.
“We’re allowing fear to guide public policy and justify discrimination, marginalizing a vulnerable group in the name of public safety,” state Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin said before the vote.
Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said SB 6 endorsed “legalized discrimination” and vowed to continue to fight it.
“At every step of the process, we will make sure lawmakers hear from those of us who see this bill for what it is – a political stunt based on fear, bigotry and at the expense of a vulnerable group of Texans,” she said.
The Texas State Teachers Association also urged the House to reject the bill. The organization, a statewide union for teachers, registered against the vote, but a representative did not testify before the Senate.
“This bill won’t protect anybody. But it may very well endanger students who it singles out for discriminatory attention by subjecting them to bullying and even physical abuse,” TSTA president Noel Candelaria said in a statement.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made SB 6 one of his top legislative priorities for 2017, but leaders in the House have expressed much less interest in the measure. Speaker Joe Straus has declared it bad for business. The Austin Chamber of Commerce said last week that a number of groups had threatened to cancel events in the city if the bill passed.
In an interview Wednesday with Dallas radio station KLIF, Patrick said Straus was “out of touch with voters.”
“This is an issue that people, supporters, constituents, voters want," he said.