By Austin Sanders
Texas senators successfully passed Senate Bill 6, commonly referred to as the “bathroom bill” or “Texas Privacy Act” March 14 with a 21-10 vote. This decision advances the bill to the House of Representatives, where it’s one step closer to becoming law.
The bill is expected to face a tough battle in the House, where Speaker Joe Straus has voiced his opposition to the legislation.
“I oppose it,” Straus said in the Texas Tribune last week. “I don’t feel a great deal of fervor to promote that bill in the House.”
Straus has yet to assign the bill to a House sub-committee, where it could potentially undergo changes before hitting the House floor for a full vote. However, Straus said he will not prevent the bill from receiving a full vote if it is moved out of committee.
In an attempt to circumvent the possibility of a failed vote, House members of the Texas Freedom Caucus attached amendments to an unrelated bill regulating the Texas Railroad Commission to include provisions from Senate Bill 6—namely the requirement that people using bathrooms in Texas Railroad Commission buildings only use those that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificates.
Straus shot down the attempt, citing that the amendments “were not germane” to the Texas Railroad Commission.
Adding to the legislation’s battle in the House, the Associated Press released an analysis which estimates North Carolina, which passed a similar “bathroom bill” in 2016, will lose out on approximately $3.76 billion in revenues to the state over 12 years.
The report corroborates concerns from opponents of “bathroom bills” in Texas and North Carolina that the legislation harms tourism revenues in each state. According to a 2016 report issued by VisitNC, a division of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, tourists spent $21.9 billion across the state in 2015. A similar report issued by the Texas governor’s office in 2015 showed tourists to the state spent $67 billion in 2014.
Students across Texas State University had varied reactions to the bill. Some shared concerns with the bill’s advocates, mentioning the potential for increased sexual assault in bathrooms from people posing as transgendered to gain access to the opposite gender’s bathroom.
No evidence has shown that transgender people commit sexual assault at a higher rate than cisgendered people. In fact, government data shows that trans people are victims of sexual assault at higher rates than the rest of the population.
However, the majority of students interviewed agreed with opponents of the bill, describing it as “discriminatory” and “ineffectual.”
Prince Ekwuribe, industrial engineering freshman, identifies as Christian and felt the issue is not “that big of a deal.”
“I don’t see why they are trying to pass this bill,” Ekwuribe said. “(Supporters of the bill) say it’s to protect children, but I don’t know of any cases where a trans person assaulted a child in the bathroom.”
Megan Meier, a crime analyst in Dallas who earned her master’s degree from the criminal justice program at Texas State, described the difficulties law enforcement officers could face in enforcing the law.
“(Bathroom bills are) a pretty complicated issue, because they involve not just who has the right to police, but also people’s right to privacy,” Meier said. “When civilians, without any guidance from professionals try to police situations – especially delicate ones – people end up getting hurt or their privacy violated.”