The fight over who can use bathrooms across the nation is not yet over. On Tuesday, Texas moved closer to banning transgender people from using a bathroom in a city or county building that doesn't match the "sex as stated on a person's birth certificate" or state ID. State buildings and public universities were not included in the bill. It also would supersede local non-discrimination ordinances that give trans people this right. The Texas Senate passed the transgender bathroom bill by a margin of 21-10, The Texas Tribune reported.
Now Senate Bill 3, as the measure is called, heads to the state House, where Republicans hold a majority. Given the difficulty that North Carolina saw after passing their own version of the bill, HB2, there's no guarantee that lawmakers will follow down that path. HB2 was mostly repealed earlier this year after costing the state $3.7 billion. But, as the state Senate vote proves, some in the GOP are willing to take that risk.
The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, is at the heart of the controversy. If it passes the state House, there is no doubt he will sign it. Abbott called a 30-day special session and put the bathroom bill on the agenda after regular session ended on Memorial Day without the bill being passed. Conservative Republicans backed by religious groups and moderate Republicans backed by big business sparred over the idea.
As a form of protest, a transgender Texas woman last week took her picture with the governor and then posted it to social media. "How will the Potty Police know I'm transgender if the Governor doesn't?" the woman, Ashley Smith, posted to Facebook with the hashtag #BathroomBuddy. She told CNN that "sometimes it's not really apparent who transgender people are." Smith added that most comments from Texans have been supportive of her.
Transgender issues, seemingly settled at the national level under the Obama administration, have returned to the battlegrounds under the Trump presidency. His Departments of Justice and Education reversed protections for transgender students. And on Wednesday morning, he announced that he would not "accept or allow" transgender people in the U.S. military, sparking widespread backlash and putting thousands of transgender service members' careers at risk.
The bill's passage in the Texas Senate was no surprise. It passed a similar bill during the regular session in March. It was the state House that never took it up, despite the fact a bathroom bill was introduced there as far back as January, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The newer version passed Tuesday is slightly less damaging. The addition of state IDs into the wording would allow trans people who can't have their birth certificates updated to legally use bathrooms that match their gender identity — assuming they've updated their Texas ID or drivers license to show their gender. As bathroom legislation often does, Texas' bill would, however, affect transgender children the most, since they would not be able to use the bathroom they feel comfortable and safe in at public schools.