Texas is on track to become the second state in the United States to take statewide legislative action to prevent transgender citizens from using the appropriate bathroom, as the House voted on Monday in favor of limiting bathroom choice in public and charter schools.
The amendment outlining the policy requires transgender students at public and charter schools to use the bathroom corresponding with the gender on their birth certificates, or make use of separate, single-occupancy bathrooms. The amendment applies to grade and high schools; it does not include universities. It has been decried by LGBT activists and Democratic state representatives as a Jim Crow-esque attempt to segregate trans children from the rest of the student population. The text of the amendment can be found below:
The board of trustees of a school district or the governing body of an open-enrollment charter school shall ensure that each school or school facility accommodates the right of each student to access restrooms, locker rooms, and changing facilities with privacy, dignity, and safety by requiring the provision of single-occupancy facilities for use by a student who does not wish to use the facilities designated for use or commonly used by persons of the student’s biological sex.
The move by the Texas legislature has been in the works for months, with much of the political legwork coming since the start of the new year. School districts in the state currently form their own policies regarding bathroom choice; the state’s Republican leadership hoped to eschew this model and instead follow the North Carolina GOP’s footsteps and write the discrimination of transgender citizens into law.
The initial attempt by the Texas legislature to limit personal bathroom selection under the guise of protecting women and children came in the form of Senate Bill 6. The bill, which would have affected all citizens, made it through the Senate with a great deal of public support from both attorney general Ken Paxton and lieutenant governor Dan Patrick, who has, along with fellow Republican Chris Paddie, made the public bathroom restriction something of a white whale this session. According to The Hill, Patrick threatened to hold up the state budget if its bodies couldn’t pass some sort of bathroom law.
But the bill stalled in the House, with House Speaker Joe Straus coming out against the bill as unnecessary and potentially damaging to future Texas business prospects. With the end of the legislative session set for May 29, House Republicans sought an alternative route.
Instead of pushing through SB6, House Republicans elected to staple the bathroom stipulation onto another bill, Senate Bill 2078, which was initially drafted to deal with natural disaster preparation. The amendment, penned by Paddie, was largely accepted by his fellow house conservatives, including Straus. Within the party, it did receive some pushback from Patrick on Monday, who opined it was “ambiguous” and too narrow in reach, as he was hoping for a state-wide measure rather than one specific to schools.
Meanwhile, the NCAA has issued nothing but radio silence when it comes to the Texas bills. This isn’t a shock—the organization generally avoids joining the fray until it is absolutely sure it’ll be backed by its fellow financially focused sports leagues. But with the bill soon to be signed into law in the state slated to host the 2018 Final Four, the governing body of college athletics will have to decide what action, if any, it will take with regards to the Lone Star state’s attempt to single out its trans citizens.
As it stands, Frisco will host the 2018 FCS football title game, Dallas will host the opening rounds of the 2018 NCAA tournament, and next year’s Final Four will be held in San Antonio. The NCAA did not respond to our request for comment—nor did they respond, either directly or at all, to questions from Vocativ, Bloomberg, or the San Antonio Business Journal—so it is unclear at this time how it will respond. The NCAA has shown it has a penchant for picking its battles based not on principle but how it will play among its customers.
In 2015, the organization postured but ultimately did nothing as Houston, home of the 2016 Final Four, became the largest city in the nation lacking anti-discriminatory protections for LGBT citizens when it voted against an equal rights ordinance. More recently, the NCAA took a brief stand against the North Carolina GOP’s House Bill 2, pulling its postseason events from the state; it ultimately decided to return to North Carolina when the state’s Democrats (and, in their minds, Republicans) bent and replaced the law with a slightly less heinous repeal bill.
With the inevitability of Texas’ regression all but confirmed, the case will now, presumably, require some sort of response from the NCAA. Whether the association decides to opt for its 2015 Houston approach (stammering followed by nothing) or its 2016 North Carolina approach (a surprisingly strong response followed by an equally unsurprising as-soon-as-possible exit) is yet to be seen.
The bill will now head back to the Senate and then on to governor Greg Abbott’s desk, where it almost assuredly be signed into law by Friday.