With fi­nal OK, Se­nate sends bath­room bill to state House

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Chuck Lin­dell clin­dell@states­man.com

Af­ter a sec­ond day of sharp dis­agree­ment and im­pas­sioned de­bate, the Texas Se­nate gave fi­nal ap­proval to the trans­gen­der bath­room bill Wed­nes­day, draw­ing con­dem­na­tion and praise from across the na­tion as Se­nate Bill 6 next heads to the House.

At­ten­tion now fo­cuses on House Speaker Joe Straus, who has said he is no fan of SB 6 — a de­tail that was on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s mind hours be­fore Wed­nes­day’s vote.

In a morn­ing ra­dio in­ter­view, Patrick — the bill’s lead­ing ad­vo­cate — sug gested that fel­low Repub­li­can Straus was play­ing with po­lit­i­cal fire.

“I think the speaker is out of touch with the vot­ers,” Patrick said on KLIF in Dal­las. “This is an is­sue that peo­ple, sup­port­ers, con­stituents and vot­ers want.”

Wed­nes­day’s 21-10 fi­nal vote, iden­ti­cal to Tues­day’s ini­tial vote,

in­cluded sup­port from all 20 Se­nate Repub­li­cans and one Demo­crat, state Sen. Ed­die Lu­cio Jr. of Brownsville, who said: “I cast my vote from a place of faith and de­vo­tion.”

Like Patrick, op­po­nents of SB 6 also turned their fo­cus to the House, where Repub­li­cans hold a 95-55 ad­van­tage over Democrats but where con­ser­va­tive mem­bers of the GOP hold less sway.

Sarah Kate El­lis, pres­i­dent of GLAAD, a na­tional LGBT ad­vo­cacy group, said the Se­nate showed “com­plete dis­re­gard” for the state’s econ­omy and the “well-be­ing of the peo­ple they rep­re­sent.”

“It is vi­tal that SB 6 not be­come law and that the Texas House heed the call of fair-minded Tex­ans, busi­nesses, or­ga­ni­za­tions, con­fer­ences and celebri­ties who have de­cried this hate­ful bill,” El­lis said.

Pas­sions ran equally high dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s Se­nate de­bate over leg­is­la­tion that would pro­hibit trans­gen­der peo­ple from us­ing the bath­room that con­forms with their gen­der iden­tity in pub­lic schools and uni­ver­si­ties and in govern­ment build­ings. SB 6 also would over­turn city and county reg­u­la­tions re­quir­ing trans­gen­der-friendly bath­rooms.

Her voice crack­ing at times, state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, the bill’s au­thor, said her fam­ily “has been through a lot from the so-called tol­er­ant and anti-bul­ly­ing” op­po­nents of SB 6, which she de­fended as an at­tempt to strike a bal­ance between pri­vacy and com­pas­sion.

“I be­lieve in my heart it’s an at­tempt to be as in­clu­sive as we pos­si­bly can when we — men and women, but I speak from the women’s per­spec­tive — find our­selves in the most in­ti­mate sit­u­a­tions,” said Kolkhorst, R-Bren­ham.

“And it’s not a trans­gen­der per­son that would vi­o­late that, but open poli­cies al­low peo­ple, sex­ual preda­tors and other peo­ple, to abuse that mo­ment,” she said.

State Sen. Kirk Wat­son, D-Austin, dis­puted GOP ar­gu­ments that SB 6 was needed to pro­tect the pri­vacy and safety of women and chil­dren.

“The peo­ple who will be most af­fected by SB 6 are trans­gen­der Tex­ans who are just try­ing to live their lives and be true to them­selves. And this bill does dis­crim­i­nate against them. It harms one group of peo­ple un­der the false pre­tense of pro­tect­ing the ma­jor­ity from some amor­phous threat,” Wat­son said.

“We’re al­low­ing fear to guide pub­lic pol­icy and jus­ti­fy­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion ... in the name of pub­lic safety,” he said.

State Sen. Sylvia Gar­cia, D-Hous­ton, said no­body has been harmed “by this myth­i­cal, mys­te­ri­ous preda­tor” in bath­rooms.

“This is, in my view, leg­isla­tive bul­ly­ing,” she said.

But state Sen. Donna Camp­bell, R-New Braun­fels, in­sisted that SB 6 was nar­rowly crafted to “pro­tect the pri­vacy of all Tex­ans.”

“I think for any­one to sug­gest this is at all po­lit­i­cal is disin­gen­u­ous,” Camp­bell said. “This bill gives pro­tec­tion, dig­nity, safety. It pro­vides lib­erty. It pro­vides rea­son­able ac­cess to those who need it.”

Also Wed­nes­day, Texas At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ken Pax­ton — joined by seven states, a re­li­gious hospi­tal net­work and Chris­tian med­i­cal as­so­ci­a­tions — asked a fed­eral judge to is­sue a fi­nal judg­ment over­turn­ing an Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion reg­u­la­tion de­signed to pro­tect the health care de­ci­sions of trans­gen­der peo­ple by pro­hibit­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion based on “gen­der iden­tity.”

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Reed O’Con­nor of Fort Worth had is­sued a pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion in De­cem­ber that blocked en­force­ment of the rule na­tion­ally.

RALPH BARRERA / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, speak­ing about the trans­gen­der bath­room bill on Wed­nes­day, said House Speaker Joe Straus, no fan of the mea­sure, is “out of touch with the vot­ers.”

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