A Republican in the Texas House is pitching an alternative to the “bathroom bill,” saying he wants to focus more on local control than on bathrooms.
State Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, filed legislation Monday that would prohibit local governments from setting restroom policies for private businesses. The measure, House Bill 1362, also says public schools cannot adopt policies that allow “more than one sex or gender” to use use the same “multi-occupancy private spaces.”
The bill is similar to Senate Bill 6, a measure deemed a priority by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, which would require people to use restrooms in Texas public schools and government buildings based on their biological sex. SB 6 also pre-empts local nondiscrimination ordinances that allow transgender Texans to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
“There’s not a good version of the bathroom bill,” said Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, which advocates for LGBT Texans.
Smith pointed to Fort Worth and Dallas, two cities near Shaheen’s North Texas district in that have had ordinances protecting against gender discrimination on the books for more than a decade. In 2016, 12 Texas cities with populations of more than 100,000 offered some degree of protection to residents or city employees.
Shaheen said his bill seeks to “stop the politicization” by school boards and superintendents who set blanket bathroom policies for their districts. HB 1362 would allow public school districts to handle bathroom and locker room scenarios with students on a case-by-case basis, working with teachers, principals and parents to determine what accommodations, if any, are necessary.
“There’s no way a serious person could call this bill discriminatory,” Shaheen said. “It tells people on the left side of the political spectrum they can’t tell people where to go to the restroom, and it also tells people on the right side of the spectrum they can’t, either. Whether you’re on the right or left side, the bill is neutral.”
But the Texas Association of Business, a group opposed to SB 6, also has concerns with Shaheen’s proposal.
“We caution against any type of legislation that limits businesses’ ability to recruit talent, and doing away with local discrimination ordinances with that preemption would really tarnish the Texas brand,” said Chris Wallace, TAB’s president.
The bottom line continues to be that there is no problem in need of solving here. What does exist is the potential for great harm, to all of us economically and to the transgender people who are targeted by these bills specifically. The transgender community is already marginalized and under attack, and the effect of that is clearly felt. Take a look at the results of this survey of nearly 1500 transgender Texans for an idea of what that means. All we need to do is not make things worse, which is what SB6, HB1362, and all the other bills listed in this story will do. The overriding governmental philosophy in this state is to do less. Now is the time to take that to heart.