Backers of a Texas state Senate bill that would allow private businesses to determine their own bathroom policies and mandate that the gender on birth certificates be used o determine public bathroom policies, renewed their support for the bill ahead of its committee hearing on Tuesday. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Texas officials in Austin on Monday (March 6) renewed their push for legislation restricting access to bathrooms for transgender people a day ahead of the bill's committee hearing. The "Texas Privacy Act," or Senate Bill 6, has been marked as a priority for Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, a Republican and conservative Christian who guides the legislative agenda in the Republican-controlled state Senate. He said the measure protected the privacy and safety of Texans. "This is not an LGBT issue. It's not a transgender issue. It's about preventing a free pass to sexual predators who are not transgender from being able to walk into any bathroom with any child, any woman at any time, those who proliferate the internet looking for victims," Patrick said at a news conference alongside the bill's author, state Senator Lois Kolkhorst, and North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, whose own state also has a bathroom law. The bill on a flashpoint issue in the United States is similar to a law enacted last year in North Carolina that led to economic boycotts and the loss of major sporting events, costing the state an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. At the news conference, Patrick disputed this point, calling stories on negative economic impact "false narrative." Forest also denied there was any negative impact in North Carolina after its law was signed, citing a Forbes magazine report that listed his state as second best place in the country to do business. Lawmakers in Texas and 13 other states have introduced so-called "bathroom bills," which supporters say help protect privacy and safety but opponents argue target an already marginalized group in U.S. society. Bill author Kolkhorst said that was not the case. "In crafting SB6, we tried to do it in the most non-discriminatory way," Kolkhorst said. The bill gives businesses the right to "decide their bathrooms, restrooms, showers and dressing room facilities as they see fit," she said, while facilities at state agencies and other public institutions would be "governed by your current birth certificate." Any venues not covered specifically in the bill would be considered a private entity and have the right to make the decision on its own, she added. The bill also received support from Democratic state Senator Eddie Lucio. "We can be compassionate and fair to all while working to defend human dignity, to avoid bigotry and to respect religious liberty and individual morality," he said. A statewide survey by the University of Texas and online news outlet Texas Tribune this week showed 54 percent of respondents believe Texans should use public restrooms based on their birth gender, as outlined in the proposed legislation. The poll also showed 51 percent of respondents do not see it is an important for the legislature to pass the bathroom bill.