A bill that would make Texas the second state to regulate intimate public facilities on the basis of biological sex advanced to the state’s Senate floor Wednesday on the heels of a Trump administration order saying the matter should be left to states.
Senate Bill 6 cleared the Senate State Affairs Committee in a 7-1 vote after more than 13 hours of testimony.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, testified in favor of the legislation. He said it’s “common sense” that “showers, bathrooms and changing facilities designated for males or females should be used only by people of that biological sex.”
“The reason we have separate boys’ rooms and girls’ rooms is not because their ‘gender identities’ are different or their ‘gender expression’ is different,” Mr. Perkins said, according to his prepared remarks. “It is because their basic physical anatomy is different.”
The bill largely mirrors one passed in North Carolina that drew the ire of the LGBT movement and provoked a backlash from the business community.
Like the North Carolina law, Senate Bill 6 would prohibit local municipalities from enacting anti-discrimination measures regulating restrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities on the basis of gender identity. The city of Houston attempted to do just that in a 2015 ballot measure that voters shot down by 61 percent to 39 percent.
The legislation is a top priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican. He said the Trump administration left the matter for the states to resolve.
“It’s now up for every state to act and have a policy that protects the safety of women in adult bathrooms and the dignity and privacy of teenagers in our schools, so that boys and girls aren’t showering together,” Mr. Patrick said Tuesday on KTSA’s “Trey Ware Show.”
Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has not said publicly whether he supports the bill.
Texas led a coalition of more than a dozen states that sued the Obama administration and halted an order that directed public schools to regulate restrooms and locker rooms on the basis of gender identity.
The Trump administration repealed that order last month. In letter issued jointly by the Education and Justice departments, the administration said the matter is best left to the states.
Senate Bill 6 now goes to the full Senate for a vote.
Some corporations have expressed reservations about the legislation. If the bill is enacted, the National Football League said it could jeopardize the state’s chance of hosting the Super Bowl in the future.
Spurred by the Human Rights Campaign, which organized the North Carolina boycott, more than 70 corporations signed a letter this week opposing Senate Bill 6. The list includes Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and PayPal.
“As we have witnessed in North Carolina with HB2, businesses want nothing to do with states that promote anti-LGBTQ discrimination,” JoDee Winterhof, Human Rights Campaign senior vice president for policy and political affairs, said in a statement. “It is heartening to see businesses stand up against harmful bills like SB 6, and hopefully lawmakers in Texas are paying attention to the increasingly frequent warnings that anti-LGBTQ laws will be detrimental to Texas’ future.”
In North Carolina, the National Basketball Association moved the this year’s All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans in response to the legislation. The National Collegiate Athletic Association moved seven championship games out of the state.
But the threats from the business community appear to be falling on deaf ears in Texas and elsewhere. Fourteen states have considered or are considering legislation this cycle regulating public restrooms, locker rooms and other changing facilities on the basis of biological sex, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said sports leagues should worry about their own problems.
“Concussions, all these women who get beat, athletes that disrespect the flag — they have enough problems,” Mr. Paxton told The Washington Times. “They don’t need to be worrying about us.”
He pointed out that, under the law, private corporations can regulate their facilities however they choose.
“That’s what’s so weird about this,” he said. “It’s like, why do you want to get in a fight with us, when this is about parents who don’t want their daughters to be exposed to boys walking into the girls’ shower? That’s pretty much what this is about.”