Sunday evening the Texas House added an anti-transgender amendment to SB 2708 “multi-hazard emergency operations plans” which originally pertained to the regulation of school districts’ emergency response plans in cases of natural disasters, active shooters and other “dangerous scenarios.”
The House added the following language that would require K-12 schools to provide single-stall restrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities to a student “who does not wish” to use facilities designated by “biological sex.” It’s a measure that would override existing trans-inclusive policies in some school districts that allow transgender children to use the bathroom of their choice. This dangerous legislation singles out transgendered students who already experience bullying and high suicide rates.
The House passed this bill in a 91 to 50 vote. By focusing on schools, Republicans could presumably prevent some business loss concerns by letting stand local nondiscrimination ordinances, some on the books for decades in the state’s biggest cities, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, El Paso and Austin, that are meant to allow transgender residents to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.
The Senate will most likely pass SB 2708 with the amendments trying to divert the Legislature from having to return for a “special session” as threatened by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick this past week. Along with SB 2, a tax rate bill, Patrick stated “If we must go to a special session, I will respectfully ask the governor to add both of these bills…plus other legislation he has voiced support for…in that special session call. If the bills don’t pass in the special and they’re blocked again, I will ask the governor to call us back again and again and again.” (link)
Also tonight the Texas Senate passed HB 3859 on to it’s third reading, which will most likely take place on Monday May, 22nd. HB 3859 (link) a “religious exemption” bill would allow Texas’ adoption and foster care agencies to claim religious objection to certain groups, without fear of losing state funding. The bill, adulated by supporters as a victory for religious independence and freedom, could restrict adoption and fostering opportunities for LGBTQ, single men and women, or non-Christian parents, and could allow child welfare services to send foster children to anti-gay “conversion therapy.”
So as you see this final week of the Texas 85th legislative session will not end silently. It will bring the end of a session that passed a “Sanctuary City”-“Show Me Your Papers” discrimination bill that already has multiple lawsuits filed against it. This will be a week that also follows with more suits filed to defend the rights of transgender youth.
In a statement released ahead of the House vote on SB 2708, Jennifer Pizer of Lambda Legal said the LGBT legal advocacy group would “be on the case before the next school bell rings” if Texas lawmakers “forced discrimination into Texas law.” (link). The Resistance is working in Texas and will not be silenced by threats and only emboldened as we fight these discriminatory laws.