46ºF

'Bathroom bill' filed before Texas legislative session

Privacy Protection Act authored by state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst

SAN ANTONIO – Senate Bill 6, titled as the Privacy Protection Act by its author, state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, already has a nickname: Bathroom bill.

The bill mirrors House Bill 2, which was signed into law in North Carolina last year. It requires government offices at all levels, public school districts and public universities to require people to use “bathrooms or changing facilities” of the sex that’s on their birth certificate, regardless whether that’s the gender they consider themselves.

"I'm filing this legislation not to start a controversy, but to end one," Kolkhorst said.

It's a controversy some people, such as Dr. Bart Roush, pastor at Madison Square Presbyterian Church in downtown San Antonio, don't believe exists.

“It's a solution in search of a problem,” Roush said. “There isn't already a problem.”

Last year, in response to the North Carolina bill, Roush’s church changed some restrooms to all gender. The move saw positive response and nothing negative.

Proponents of the bill have argued that it protects women and children from sexual predators who may lie about their identifying gender to commit a sexual crime.

“If we're seriously interested in protecting people and trying to stop predatory behavior, then the target of the legislation should be predators, not transgender people, because transgender people are more likely to be the victims of crime, not the perpetrators," said Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, a group that fights for equal rights for members of the LGBTQ community.

Opponents also argue that in addition to affecting civil rights, the bill could see major economic loss. A study by the Texas Association of Business estimates the state could lose up to $8.5 billion in business opportunities.

San Antonio District 6 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran released a statement Thursday night saying: “At a time when the country is as divided as ever, SB 6 will only breed division and hysteria at a time when we need to come together as one. Make no mistake: A bill such as this will only harm the economies and businesses of San Antonio and all of Texas. It will tarnish the sense of friendliness of our state. It will bring danger to Texas residents where none had existed before.”

The bill would also prevent local governments from passing laws in opposition to the state law and supersede any existing laws allowing transgender individuals to use the restroom of the sex they identify with.

The legislative session begins Tuesday.