Texas Senate Committee Passes ‘Bathroom Bill’ After 10 Hours of Testimony

Citizens line up to testify during a July 21, 2017 Senate State Affairs Committee hearing where Senators will take up Senate Bill 3, the so-called “bathroom bill.”
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

As part of state lawmakers’ second attempt at passing a bathroom bill this year, a panel of Senate lawmakers voted Friday to advance a measure to restrict bathroom use for transgender Texans.

The 8-1 vote came after almost 10 hours of emotional testimony — a large majority in opposition — by transgender Texans, their families and their allies, who pleaded with lawmakers to not endanger an already vulnerable population. For the third time this year, hundreds of people streamed through the halls of the Capitol and waited in line to testify on the divisive issue that has garnered Texas national attention.

The Senate State Affairs Committee signed off on Senate Bill 3, which would restrict bathroom use in government buildings and public schools based on the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate. Such restrictions would keep most transgender men, women and children from using bathrooms that match their gender identity.

The proposal — authored by Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham — would also gut parts of local nondiscrimination ordinances meant to allow transgender residents to use public bathrooms of their choice. Similar proposals have been filed in the House but their fates remain uncertain.

It now goes on to consideration by the full Senate, which is expected to easily approve it and send it to the House next week. Without providing details, Kolkhorst said she would offer up amendments to the bill once it hits the Senate floor. 

The Senate has been working at a breakneck pace to zip through the 20-item agenda for the special session, which started Tuesday and could last as long as 30 days.

“We’re here today because Texas has a tradition of taking care of these issues and not being dictated to by the federal government,” Kolkhorst said at the start of the hearing, referencing since-rescinded guidelines from the Obama administration that accommodated transgender students in public schools.

Kolkhorst pointed to the guidelines and a fight over a now-defunct nondiscrimination ordinance in Houston in explaining that the legislation was meant to find a balance “between the right to declare your gender and the right of a parent to protect your child.”

In pushing for the restrictions, Republicans have argued that trans-inclusive bathroom policies allow sexual predators to exploit them for nefarious reasons.

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SOURCE: Texas Tribune, Alexa Ura and Emma Platoff