After weeks of condemnation and support, the most controversial measure to come before the Texas Legislature this session finally comes up for its first hearing today, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
A State Senate committee expects lengthy debate on S.B. 6, what is known as the 'bathroom bill.' The measure would require that individuals use the public restroom or locker room that matches the gender on their birth certificate.
Supporters like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick say it would prevent perverts and pedophiles from using locally passed 'Non Discrimination Ordinances' which allow transgender individuals to use the 'bathroom that matches their gender identity' as cover to slip into women's restrooms or locker rooms and molest or sexually assault women and young girls.
Supporters of that bill to restrict the use of public restrooms in Texas came out swinging on Monday, declaring the measure to be a 'human rights issue' and promising 'a million voices' will rise up to support it.
State Sen. Lois Kohlkorst (R-Brenham) who is a former college athlete, says Title IX, passed in 1972, allowed women's college athletics to flourish and opened up countless new opportunities for women. She says transgender bathroom and locker room rules, like the ones unsuccessfully pushed by former President Obama, would undo all that progress by making women wary of participating in athletics if they know that biological men will be allowed in their locker room.
"The original letter that came out in May of 2016 really turned back many of those advances," she said, referring to the letter sent by the Obama Administration warning of loss of funds if schools did not open their locker rooms and rest rooms to transgender individuals. The letter has been thrown out by a federal court, and the new Trump Administration has said it will not press the issue.
Dan Forest, the Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, which has a similar law, says blanket regulations is not how the United States works, and this issue can be settled by designated single stall rest rooms for transgenders.
"When we passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, we didn't say that every parking space in every building in America has to be handicap accessible," he said. "We said, no, you have to present reasonable accommodations for the small percentage of people who have certain handicap needs."
Forest backed up claims repeatedly made by Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick, who is the main sponsor of the bill, that all of the dire predictions of lost jobs and lost events that have been raised by business groups fighting the bill are bogus.
"What you heard was that PayPal was not going to add 400 jobs in North Carolina," Forest said. "We add 400 jobs in our state every week."
Patrick and several pastors, including the Rev. Charles Flowers of San Antonio, promised to drown out the vocal opposition to the bill with 'a million voices.'
While the measure has strong support in the State Senate, House Speaker Joe Straus has been non committal about it, and Gov. Abbott has not mentioned it as a priority.
Many groups, from tech companies to meeting planners to money managers to travel and tourism groups have spoken out against it, saying it will lead to 'appearence of inequity' in the state and drive away business, tourists, and major events.
The NFL and the NBA have already indicated passage of the measure might make them think twice about holding major events in Texas.