Texas bathroom bill out of committee, advances to full Senate
Senate Bill 6 moves on to floor despite opposition
March 8th, 2017 / By: Bonnie Pritchett | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
AUSTIN—The Texas Privacy Act passed out of the State Affairs Committee early Wednesday morning (March 8) on an 8 to 1 vote. The bill, Senate Bill 6, will next get a hearing by the full Republican-controlled Senate, where supporters are confident it will pass and be sent to the House.
Hundreds of Texans registered to testify Tuesday before the Senate State Affairs Committee extending the hearing into the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Punctuated by emotionally charged testimonies, the hearing drew a large contingency of transgender persons and their advocates. And in an auditorium at the opposite end of the hall from the hearing almost 300 pastors gathered to learn how to lead their congregations through cultural conflicts.
SB 6, authored by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, governs the use of all publicly owned bathrooms and private changing facilities such as schools and government buildings. It requires people to use the facility that corresponds with the biological sex indicated on their birth certificate. Private business owners are free to establish their own policy.
Comments from Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, at the outset of the hearing demonstrated the cognitive dissonance between the two sides of the debate. Rodriguez agreed with Kolkhorst that men should not be allowed in the women’s bathroom. But, to Rodriquez, gender identity trumps biology.
He said a man who identifies as a woman “considers themselves to be a woman. So it’s not a man going into the woman’s bathroom.”
Concern for women’s safety in private spaces got Kaeley Triller Haver fired from her job at a Seattle, Washington YMCA. She told the senate committee her childhood experience of being sexually abused made her hypervigilant in her job. But when her management decided to allow members access to facilities based on their gender identity Haver pushed back.
“As a child I did not have a choice about who got to see me in the shower,” Haver told the committee. She said because Washington “did not have an SB 6 we got stuck with an ordinance that people did not vote for.”
As Haver shared her testimony next to her sat fourth-grader Shilo, a student at a Dripping Springs elementary school where, last fall, administrators established an open bathroom policy to accommodate a gender dysphoric male student who presents himself as a girl. The district has been mute on the subject refusing to address parents’ concerns at board meetings or give a reason for the policy change.
Accompanied by her father Shilo told the senators the new policy made her “feel very uncomfortable that a boy could come into the bathroom with me.”
Parents of gender dysphoric children said the bill targets transgender people and makes their children vulnerable to bullying and violence at school. But, as with the Drippings Springs school, transgender students have been offered access to non-gender-specific, single-use restroom and changing facilities.
When Texas Association of Businesses President Mike Wallace testified, senators took the opportunity to excoriate him for TAB’s use of a largely debunked economic study to make claims of calamitous economic impact should SB 6 pass. But Wallace would not back down, claiming the study, though flawed, indicates a negative economic impact on the state if SB 6 passes.
The racially and politically diverse group of pastors who gathered for the Family Research Council’s pastors’ briefing took time from the conference to testify in support of the bill.
One of the speakers, John Graves, president of Vision America Action, told the TEXAN pastors who are willing to take a biblical and public stand on controversial issues need the support of fellow believers. He said those pastors often get “whispered affirmation.” While shouting at and condemning transgender persons and their allies is wrong, Graves said all believers need to “speak your voice” graciously interjecting biblical truth into a contentious debate.