The strongest indication yet that the so called 'Bathroom Bill,' which would limit transgender use of restrooms and locker rooms in public places and in schools, will be flushed down the toilet when it moves to the Texas House, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
House Speaker Joe Straus (R-Alamo Heights) told the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas flatly that he 'opposes' the bill, and finds it unnecessary.
"School districts I represent have never had a problem," he said of people in his San Antonio House district. "Nobody mentions it. It almost seems like a contrived thing."
The bill, which would limit restroom use to the gender on the person's birth certificate, has sailed through the much more socially conservative Texas Senate, where it is a top priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Straus' comments put him on a collision course with evangelical groups, which have vowed to mobilize 'a million voices' from churches across the state to push for approval of the bill in the House.
Straus says if we have really gotten to the point where the greatest deliberative body in the State of Texas is discussing bathrooms, we have a problem.
"If we have gotten to the point in our civilization and our society where politicians have to pass bills related to bathroom stuff, then we have really gotten out of control," he said.
Straus stressed that there are already laws on the books which criminalize sexually predatory actions committed in bathrooms by people of any gender.
Supporters like Patrick claim that when cities like San Antonio approve 'Non Discrimination Ordinances' which allow transgender individuals to use the public restroom of their choice, non transgender men will use that law as an excuse to enter women's restrooms and sexually assault women and girls. That issue helped defeat an NDO in Houston in 2015.
Opponents say that, much as 'gun free zones' are not likely to deter a person determined to commit a gun crime, somebody who is determined to commit sexual assault is unlikely to first check the statute books and detemine whether local ordinances can give him an excuse to enter a women's restroom.
And Straus says, despite Patrick's claims that studies predicting a major economic loss for the state are bogus, he has friends in North Carolina, which passed a similar bill in 2014, who tell him otherwise
."He said, we are vocally opposed to this and we have seen it hurt our business in North Carolina, we can't get a lot of clients to fly into our seminars and training programs any more. The is affecting real job creators out there."
And Straus points out that major entities like the NCAA have not hesitated to cancel events in North Carolina, and the NBA and the NFL have hinted that future Texas events may be in jeopardy if this bill passes.
"I come from San Antonio, and my constituents aren't talking about it," he said. "My community is going to be the one one year from now that has the Final Four, and we are pretty sensitive about sending the wrong signals to those we want to attract."
Straus is likely to assign S.B. 6 to the House State Affairs Committee, where Chairman Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) is expected to bury it until the session ends in late May.