Texas could become the next state to introduce a “bathroom bill.” The Republican-controlled state looks poised to push for legislation regulating access to public restrooms. LGBTQ rights groups see the proposals as a thinly veiled attack on Texas’ transgender community.

Texas’ Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is proposing a new law that will prevent transgender individuals using the bathroom of their choice, according to The Guardian. Patrick’s “Women’s Privacy Act” is on the list of priorities for the state’s Republicans in 2017.

Supporters of the bill argue that its intention is to protect women and girls from men entering women’s bathrooms. The same argument was used in North Carolina. HB2, introduced by Republican Governor Pat McCrory, required people to use the bathroom of their birth gender.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, right, listens to a reporter's question during a news conference at the Texas Republican Convention
Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick wants a bathroom law [Image by LM Otero/AP Images]

The so-called “bathroom bill” was controversial and led to economic boycotts of North Carolina. It is estimated the law cost the state millions of dollars. Governor McCrory narrowly lost re-election to a Democratic opponent who opposed the bathroom bill.

However, Texan politics is overwhelmingly dominated by the Republican Party. Texas may find it easier to introduce a bathroom bill and it may enjoy greater public support. Texas would also suffer less from economic boycotts from companies supportive of transgender rights because Texas is a much larger economy than North Carolina and has significant oil wealth.

Texas Lt. Governor Patrick defended the proposal on the website of Texas’ state government. The Women’s Privacy Act is one of a raft of legislative priorities, which includes cracking down on “inappropriate student-teacher relations” and a ban on partial-birth abortions.

“A majority of Texans in both political parties and in every ethnic and demographic group believe that women and girls should have privacy and safety in their restrooms, showers and locker rooms,” the website says.

“Unfortunately, legislation is necessary to assure that they do.”

Critics are already organizing to resist any Texas bathroom bill but there is concern that Republican control of the federal government will make it more difficult to stop the passage of any bathroom bill. Republicans now control both houses of Congress and the White House. Lt. Governor Patrick specifically mentions President-elect Donald Trump in outlining his proposals.

“Starting in 2017, we will have a friend in the White House who was clearly elected because the people of this country believe in the conservative principles that have guided the way we govern in Texas — life, liberty and lean government that promotes prosperity,” Patrick’s statement said.

“I remain committed to those principles and the legislative priorities I am announcing today all reflect that commitment.”

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory speaks to supporters at an election rally in Raleigh, N.C.,
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, whose support for HB2 may have cost him re-election [Image by Chuck Burton/AP Images]

North Carolina failed to repeal its bathroom bill recently despite a previous agreement between state Democrats and Republicans to do so. Lt. Governor Patrick praised the failure to repeal the North Carolina law and pointed to it as a model for Texas.

“Legislation to protect women’s privacy and business is essential to assure that sexual predators, like those who exploit the internet, will not be able to freely enter women’s restrooms, locker rooms or showers,” the Texas Republican said in a statement.

“I congratulate the conservative legislators in North Carolina and the leadership of my good friend, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, for standing firm on principle and public safety. Legislation like this is essential to protect the safety and privacy of women and girls, and is simple common sense and common decency.”

Texas will likely be able to implement a bathroom bill early in 2017. If the new law is modeled on the North Carolina bathroom bill, it will require Texas residents to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificates.

A bathroom bill in Texas would encourage other Republican-controlled states to introduce similar measures, which civil rights activists see as discriminating against transgender people. Texas could soon become the next battleground in transgender rights and the fight over bathroom bills and legislation aimed to ‘protect’ women.


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