Transgender 'Bathroom bill' poised to clear Texas Senate

The bill, which requires transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate, still faces big obstacles.

Published: 15th March 2017 01:17 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th March 2017 01:18 PM   |  A+A-

Members of the transgender community and others who oppose Senate Bill 6 protest in the exterior rotunda at the Texas state Capitol as the Senate State Affairs Committee holds hearings on the bill. (File | AP)

By Associated Press

AUSTIN, TEXAS: A North Carolina-style "bathroom bill" in Texas won preliminary approval Tuesday in the state Senate over the objections of big businesses including Amazon and American Airlines, celebrities such as Lady Gaga and warnings from the NFL and NBA.

But the bill, which requires transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate, still faces big obstacles that could ultimately derail the proposal in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Here's where the hot-button measure stands and what's ahead:

AN EARLY SENATE VOTE

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who was the Texas chairman of Donald Trump's presidential campaign last year, has put what he calls "The Texas Privacy Act" at the top of his agenda. He has dismissed projections of business backlash and flew in his North Carolina counterpart to dispute what they claim are fake narratives of a similar law causing economic upheaval there.

The bill is being carried by Lois Kolkhorst, a Republican senator who says the proposal is about women's safety and not discriminating against transgender people.

The measure passed 21-10 after more than four hours of debate and failed efforts by Democrats to amend the bill with provisions that would have, among other things, required economic studies and let cities keep existing transgender rights rules. A final vote is expected Wednesday.

Kolkhorst repeatedly said Tuesday that former President Barack Obama forced the issue last year when his administration told public schools that students must be allowed to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. President Donald Trump has since rescinded that order, but Republicans insist the measure is still needed.

WHAT'S NEXT

The proposal would next need the OK from the House — where powerful Republican speaker Joe Straus says he has no appetite for the bill he has likened to a job-killer. Straus has stopped short of declaring the bill dead on arrival but his public and repeated denouncements are significant.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has also yet to definitively take a public stance about the most high-profile bill in Texas this year. Abbott has taken broadsides at the NFL for wading into the debate but has not said whether the law is needed.

BUSINESSES, SPORTS LEAGUES THREATEN BOYCOTTS

The North Carolina law prompted the NCAA to pull seven championship events out of the state, the NBA to move the All-Star game from Charlotte and contributed to former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory getting voted out in November.

The NBA and NFL have lobbed similar warnings to Texas, but Republicans are undeterred. "I believe their threats are real. But I also have great concern about the NCAA, NFL, NBA you name it, dictating policy not just to this state, but any state," Kolkhorst said.

Microsoft, Intel and United Airlines are among dozens of companies that signed onto a letter that says the measure will hurt its ability to recruit top workers.

NEW NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR TRYING TO REPEAL

Texas is trying to follow North Carolina's law at a time when that state's new governor, Democrat Roy Cooper, is trying to repeal it. Cooper said in his first State of the State address this week that people are sick of the law and wondering whether "this heavy anchor weighing us down" will be cut away. But potential compromises with Republicans have crumbled since December.

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