The Texas Senate approved a bill Wednesday regulating public restrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities on the basis of biological sex, as the Lone Star State continues to defy the gay-rights movement and the threats of boycott from major corporations.
Senate Bill 6 passed by a 21-10 vote and now heads to the House. If it is enacted, Texas would become the second state, joining North Carolina, with such a law on the books.
The bill has been championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who said it protects the dignity, privacy and safety of women and girls.
“Women do not want men in ladies’ rooms,” Mr. Patrick told The Washington Times. “It’s an issue of public safety, privacy and dignity. Secondly, the parents of America do not want their boys and girls showering together. And that’s what this leads to.”
The gay-rights movement opposes the measure and has put together a coalition of more than 70 corporations — including Amazon, Facebook and Google — to come out against the legislation.
“This measure is another product of Dan Patrick’s anti-LGBTQ agenda, and it’s troubling that lawmakers in the Senate cannot see it for what it truly is: an attack on their transgender neighbors, coworkers and friends who deserve the same dignity and rights as anyone else,” JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president of policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.
On Thursday, a group of about 50 athletes signed an open letter condemning SB6. The list includes former NFL punter Chris Kluwe, WNBA player Brittney Griner and tennis champion Martina Navratilova.
“SB6 isolates, excludes, and others the transgender community and exacerbates many of the issues transgender Texans already face,” reads the letter, which was released by Athlete Ally. “The only solution that embodies the spirit of sport is to expand equality by embracing diversity.”
The NFL and NCAA have also suggested SB6 may affect Texas’s ability to host sporting championships in the future.
The strategy against SB6 in Texas mirrors the one employed in North Carolina, where athletic associations and major corporations spoke out against the legislation and in some cases curtailed commercial activity.
The NBA relocated this year’s All-Star Game in response to the North Carolina law, and the NCAA moved seven sporting championships out of the state.
Mr. Patrick said the opposition from the business community is hypocritical.
“All of the businesses I’ve talked to, including the NFL, they don’t allow men in women’s rooms during a football game,” he said. “The NBA doesn’t. Look, if they are really against this bill, then they are in favor of boys and girls showering together in high school. Because if you’re against the bill, that’s what you’re for. Let’s not play games here.”
Whether SB6 will make it through the House remains to be seen.
Speaker Joe Straus, a Republican from San Antonio, has voiced opposition to the bill because it threatens to impair business activity and economic growth. The NCAA Final Four is scheduled to be played in his city in 2018.
But if the bill receives a vote in the House, Mr. Patrick said it will pass.
“There’s no question if it gets to the floor, it will pass,” he said. “There will be 76-plus Republicans who will vote for it. The question is, does it get to the floor?”