Texas Senate Committee passes new bathroom bill

Photo credit: Dayday Wynn

By Rylee Seavers | Staff Writer

The Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs passed Senate Bill 6 on Wednesday. The bill is referred to as the Texas Privacy Act and relates to regulations and policies for using bathroom and changing facilities. The bill has now been passed to the full Texas Senate, according to a press release.

“My thanks go to the entire committee and all of the witnesses, who listened and contributed to the debate. Ultimately the Senate Committee agreed that we must put the safety, privacy and dignity of our children above anything else,” said Texas Senator and bill author Lois Kolkhorst in a press release.

The bill states that in public schools, public, single-sex, multiple-occupancy bathrooms and changing facilities may only be used by a person of the biological sex that the facility is designated for. In public buildings, a political subdivision or state agency with control over a multiple-occupancy bathroom or changing facilities must adopt a policy that would require those facilities to be designated for and used by only people of the specified biological sex.

The bill defines biological sex as “the physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate.”

The state of Texas does issue birth certificates with updated gender if a court order is received indicating a sex change and after the proper application is filled out, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

The bill also establishes a penalty for school districts, open-enrollment charter schools, state agencies or political subdivisions that violate the policy. It also increases the severity of any offenses, such as murder, sexual assault or harassment that occur in a bathroom or changing facility.

Exceptions to this policy are allowed for custodial and maintenance purposes, medical emergencies, to accompany a person needing assistance and, in public buildings, for a child younger than 8 years old that is entering a bathroom for the biological sex opposite theirs.

Additionally, the bill says that a private entity that leases or contracts a building that is owned or leased by the state can not be required or prohibited by that state or any political subdivision from adopting a policy on the use of bathrooms in that building.

“We must provide clear direction to public schools and government buildings,” Kolkhorst said in a press release. “The Texas Privacy Act is non-discriminatory and inclusive because the act provides personal accommodations for special circumstances while also respecting those who do not consent to a man entering a female restroom.”

Jathan Young, chairman of Young Conservatives of Texas, is a supporter of the bill because he believes that it is meant to ensure that people are using the bathroom for the genitalia that they have, and to prevent men from saying that they identify as a female and using the women’s restroom.

“It doesn’t really matter what you feel at that point. For example, If I [wanted the] senior discount at Chick-fil-a, I can’t go up to them and say, “I feel like I’m 65 today, I’d like your senior discount,’” Young said.

However, Montgomery junior Jessica Green, president of Baylor Democrats, is opposed to the bill and believes that, if enacted, it would greatly affect transgender children in public school and make life more difficult for transgender people.

“Really, it’s not an issue of safety, it’s an issue of them existing in society and being present,” Green said

Green also said that, even though a transgender person can be issued a birth certificate with an updated gender after undergoing gender reassignment surgery, many transgender people are financially unable to have that surgery or choose not to. Therefore, it does not resolve the issue, she said.

“I think that it’s dangerous for that to be part of the bill because it sets a standard for what makes a person trans and what makes a person acceptable that is too high,” Green said.

McLennan County junior Jessica is a transgender woman. Jessica and Green both cited the high rate of sexual assault and abuse to transgender people. The Office for Victims of Crime reported that one in two transgender people experience sexual assault or abuse in their lives.

“I spent the first six months [of hormone treatment] voluntarily using the men’s restroom to respect other people,” Jessica said. “My fear was being sexually assaulted while using the men’s restroom.”