The Texas Privacy Act, also known as the bathroom bill, is all but dead in the Texas legislature, but it continues to preoccupy advocates on both side of the debate with just days left in the special session.
Senate Bill 3 and its House counterpart, House Bill 46, would require Texans to use facilities that correspond with their birth sex, as listed on their birth certificate, rather than their gender identity.
SB 3 passed the Senate, but HB 46 stalled in the lower chamber. State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, has yet to hold a hearing on the legislation. With the session ending Wednesday, that does not bode well for the bill to see the House floor.
At dueling press conferences, supporters and opponents appealed to representatives in an attempt to sway lawmakers, specifically Cook.
“When you get it to the floor, it might lose, that’s okay, that’s the way our system works,” Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, said to reporters, flanked by conservative supporters of the bill. “But we deserve an up or down vote on that, and we’re not going to get that, it doesn’t appear, on House Bill 46. We’re going to fight til the end for amendment potential, I know the Senate is doing the same thing.”
“This issue is not going to go away just because we don’t handle it in the special session,” Simmons stated.
A short time earlier, transgender advocates gathered at the Capitol steps to renounce the proposals.
“Texas doesn’t want the reputation of being a state that discriminates against anyone, including transgender Texans,” Texas Freedom Network president Kathy Miller said.
“This is an attack on people, this is a way to separate people, this is the way to distract people,” Human Rights Campaign national field director Marty Rouse explained.”It’s all about politics.”
“We want Texans to enjoy themselves, to be free, and to be proud Texans,” Rouse said. “It’s time to move on.”
Opponents delivered a petition signed by more than 50,000 Texans, calling on lawmakers to prevent the bills from passing, to the offices of state leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Joe Straus.
Dave Welch, president of the Texas Pastor Council, argued that the proposals would protect the privacy of women and children.
“We choose our daughters over dollars and we choose freedom over threats,” Welch said.
Simmons said he would be willing to incorporate the bathroom bill into other legislation if it does not get enough support to reach the House floor on its own. He mentioned the state’s revamp of the public school finance system as an opportunity to include the bathroom bill as an amendment, but said he would have to wait to see how the chips fall.
His window of opportunity is closing.
“This is an issue for Texas,” Simmons said. “We need to get this issue solved today.”