- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2017

Legislation proposed Thursday in the Texas Senate would trump local anti-discrimination ordinances by giving private business the right to prohibit transgender customers from using the restroom of their choice.

A so-called “bathroom bill” floated by Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst would prohibit local municipalities from establishing restroom and locker room policies for private businesses, effectively nullifying trans-inclusive nondiscrimination laws already on the books in several of its largest cities including Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.

Additionally the law would require the state’s school districts and political subdivisions to adopt new policies that would regulate access to those same facilities based on an individual’s biological sex instead of their preferred gender.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a conservative Republican and president of the Texas Senate, previously said he’d make it a “top priority” to work such a bill through the state legislature once lawmakers begin meeting Jan. 10.

Praising Ms. Kolkhorst’s proposal Thursday, Mr. Patrick said her offering was anything but an attempt to discriminate against transgender persons, contrary to claims raised by the bill’s critics.

“This issue is not about discrimination — it’s about public safety, protecting businesses and common sense,” he said in a statement.

According to its author, the bill would give Texans the means to fight against federal overreach after the Obama administration last year ordered the state to lift certain gender-based restrictions.

“In May of 2016, the federal government issued an edict to all Texas schools, requiring them to provide students access to restrooms, showers and dressing rooms based on ‘an individual’s internal sense of gender,’” Ms. Kolkhorst said in a statement. “Alarming both parents and the public, the federal proposal to have boys and girls potentially showering and using the same restroom, has been largely ignored by the mainstream media.”

Specifically, SB6, the Texas Privacy Act, states “a political subdivision may not adopt or enforce an order, ordinance or other measure that relates to the designation or use of a private entity’s bathroom or changing facility or that requires or prohibits the entity from adopting a policy on the designation or use of the entity’s bathroom or changing facility.”

Additionally, the school-specific provision states that covered institutions “shall adopt a policy requiring each multiple-occupancy bathroom or changing facility accessible to students that is located in a school or school facility to be designated for and used only by persons based on the person’s biological sex.”

“This is a significant step for the majority of Texans who are alarmed by misguided efforts to shatter our expectations of security and privacy, especially for our children,” Ms. Kolkhorst said Thursday, according to the Houston Chronicle. “Senate Bill 6 may have my name on it, but the responsibility falls on all of us to protect citizens and ensure that their personal and private rights are secured.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, applauded the bill’s sponsors Thursday “for fighting to protect women and children from those who might use access to such facilities for nefarious purposes,” the Chronicle reported.

If approved, the bill would enable the Texas Attorney General’s Office to seek financial penalties from any defiant local governments or school districts ranging up to $10,500 for repeat violations.

The Texas Privacy Act is similar to a controversial 2015 “bathroom bill” passed in North Carolina that garnered widespread criticism from beyond the Tar Heel State, as well as legal action from the Obama administration.

Thursday’s proposal was quickly met with opposition including the American Civil Liberties Union’s Texas chapter.

“After having watched the debacle in North Carolina, it is shocking that the lieutenant governor would be so intent on pursuing SB6,” said Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director of the ACLU of Texas.

The latest proposal, she said, is “unnecessary, discriminatory and inconsistent with the constitutional value of equal protection for all.”

“Make no mistake — the invidious intent of SB6 is to deny transgender Texans the ability to participate in public life,” she said.

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