Since the advent of indoor plumbing, bathrooms have not been discussed so often in polite society until Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced the filing of Senate Bill 6, otherwise known as the Texas Privacy Act or “Bathroom Bill.”
The bill was authored by Sen. Kolkhorst, R-Brenham and co-authored by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, who represents San Marcos and Texas State students. Senate Bill 6 would limit bathroom choices for anyone in a public space based on the sex on the user’s birth certificate. The law would only apply to public buildings, which includes schools and colleges.
According to the bill, public schools—the impetus and primary target of the legislation—will be required to adopt a policy “requiring each multiple-occupancy bathroom or changing facility accessible to students that is located in a school or school facility to be designated for and used only by persons based on the person’s biological sex.”
The bill stipulates that schools could offer accommodations for “special circumstances,” like providing a single occupancy restroom, but does not mandate such accommodations.
Patrick said the bill will make the children in Texas safer.
“The people of Texas elected us to stand up for common decency, common sense and public safety,” Patrick said in a statement on his website. “This legislation codifies what has been common practice in Texas and everywhere else forever—that men and women should use separate, designated bathrooms. It is supported by an overwhelming majority of Texans including both Democrats and Republicans, Hispanics, African-Americans and Anglos, men and women.”
Several groups have refuted Patrick’s claims of “overwhelming support.” The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas attacked the bill and its authors, accusing them of targeting the LBGTQIA community.
“After having watched the debacle in North Carolina, it is shocking that the Lieutenant Governor would be so intent on pursuing SB6,” said Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director for the ACLU of Texas. “It’s unnecessary, discriminatory and inconsistent with the constitutional value of equal protection for all. And that’s to say nothing of the havoc it will wreak on the Texas economy should it pass. Make no mistake—the invidious intent of SB6 is to deny transgender Texans the ability to participate in public life.”
Because of Texas ethics laws, Texas State President Denise Trauth cannot take an official position on the pending legislation. However, she said Texas State will adopt the mandated bathroom policies if the bill passes.
“As president of Texas State University, it is my obligation to obey Texas law,” Trauth said.
If the bathroom bill manages to work its way through the legislative process, Trauth said Texas State’s bathroom policy will be the product of an in-depth scientific process to ensure legal and ethical requirements are met.
“If some version of this bill becomes law and we have implementation obligations, we would probably begin our process by creating a study group on our campus to gather data about the facilities that exist on our campuses, engage in qualitative and quantitative research to identify best practices and policies and make implementation recommendations,” Trauth said.
To ensure agencies around the state comply with the law, the bill authorizes fines that can be as much as $10,500 for repeated offenses. Those fines would be handed down after a complaint is filed, investigated and deemed to be a violation of the law, although Trauth said it isn’t quite clear who would pay for the fines.
The ACLU isn’t alone in forecasting an economic disaster if the bill passes. A group of Texas business leaders formed a group called Texas Welcomes All, and members been outspoken about the fiscal impact they are certain the bill will have.
“Any attempt to pass legislation that is designed to discriminate against our fellow citizens, under the guise of privacy, or anything else, will result in a multi-billion dollar disaster for our economy,” said Phillip Jones, the CEO of VisitDallas, at a Texas Welcomes All press conference at the Capitol. “This is not speculation. These are facts based on what we have seen firsthand in North Carolina, Indiana and other states that have passed similar legislation.”
Jones also cited a recent study done by the Texas Association of Business that found Texas could potentially lose 185,000 jobs and suffer an annual GDP loss of $8.5 billion.
Senate Bill 6 took its first step toward passage when it was assigned to the State Affairs Committee Jan. 24. While the bill faces a long legislative fight through the Republican-majority Senate and House, it might get enough support to become a law.
Those interested can track the progress of Senate Bill 6 on the Texas Legislature’s website.