Texas is taking measures to protect its citizens from laws that hinder “common sense and public safety” when it comes to transgender persons being allowed to use both men’s and women’s restrooms.
“This is a public safety issue,” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, said during a conference call with reporters Friday.
Legislation filed by Texas state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, seeks to ensure that men and women use separate bathrooms.
Kolkhorst said the bill, titled the Texas Privacy Act, will clarify who will be allowed to enter both men’s and women’s restrooms.
“I don’t view this bill as a transgender bill,” Kolkhorst said in the conference call. “It truly is about public safety … It is not against the law for a man to enter a woman’s restroom dressed looking like a man. There is nothing on the books here in Texas.”
The gender on a person’s birth certificate would determine which bathroom Texans could use.
“In Texas, there is a way to change your birth certificate and it is going before a district judge and presenting the date of either hormone therapy or the surgery and then the judge makes the decision that [the gender on] the birth certificate shall be changed,” Kolkhorst said.
Patrick said the bill is necessary because it is “common practice” that men and women use separate bathrooms.
“The people of Texas elected us to stand up for common decency, common sense, and public safety,” Patrick said in a statement. “This legislation codifies what has been common practice in Texas and everywhere else forever—that men and women should use separate, designated bathrooms.”
Patrick says the legislation has received bipartisan support and is viewed favorably by men and women, African-Americans, and Hispanics.
While ensuring that bathrooms remain separate for men and women, the bill also specifies that “no public school can institute a bathroom policy that allows boys to go in girls restrooms, showers, and locker rooms and girls to go in boys restrooms, showers, and locker rooms,” according to Patrick’s statement.
According to Patrick’s office, the hearing for the Texas Privacy Act is the first legislative hearing for privacy protection legislation following President Donald Trump’s revocation of President Barack Obama’s bathroom directive issued by the Justice and Education departments in May.
Opponents of the Texas bill say they are concerned that Kolkhorst’s legislation is too similar to the bathroom bill passed by North Carolina last March.
During a conference call with reporters, Patrick said that he does not believe the Texas Privacy Act will have adverse economic effects.
Critics of North Carolina’s bill claim the state lost out on economic opportunities because of the bill, CNN reports.
According to CNN, businesses chose not to expand because of the bill and the NBA moved its All-Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina, to a location outside the state.
However, former North Carolina Commerce Secretary John Skvarla said North Carolina’s economy was not adversely affected, according to The Charlotte Observer.
“It hasn’t moved the needle one iota,” Skvarla said in October.
Patrick argued the Texas bill was different than the North Carolina bill.
“I think there has been significant misrepresentation in what happened in North Carolina,” Patrick said. “Our bill is not the North Carolina bill … Our bill is very narrow and it deals with public safety, keeping sexual predators pretending to be transgender people [from entering] adult bathrooms.”
Ryan T. Anderson, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal that this bill is appropriate because it seeks to protect the dignity of all people.
“While we must be sensitive to the dignity, privacy, and safety concerns of people who identify as transgender, that is not a reason to ignore the dignity, privacy, and safety concerns of everyone else,” Anderson said in an email to The Daily Signal.
The Texas Privacy Act hearing is scheduled for March 7 in the Texas Senate.