Texas Lawmakers Revive 'Bathroom Bill' With Proposal For Public Schools

May 22, 2017
Originally published on May 22, 2017 10:56 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The legislature in Texas is on the verge of passing its own version of a so-called bathroom bill. It would prohibit transgender students from using bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. The bill passed over vehement objections from business and civil rights groups. They predicted that sports organizations and conventions would boycott the state if this goes through. NPR's Wade Goodwyn has more.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: This legislative session has been a particular triumph for the Republican leadership in Austin. Democrats have watched in despair and dismay as bills aimed at abortion rights, immigration and now transgender students rolled over their powerless objection.

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SENFRONIA THOMPSON: I happened to have been a member of this society during the period of time in history of this state and in this country where we had separate but equal.

GOODWYN: Houston Representative Senfronia Thompson stood in the Texas House holding up a picture of a Jim Crow-era bathroom sign.

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THOMPSON: You remember bathrooms - white, colored. Bathrooms divided us then, and it divides us now.

GOODWYN: The bathroom bill was Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick's priority, and his successful shepherding of the measure stands as proof of his growing power. The Senate's version included schools and government buildings, but the House's version focuses on schools only. Republican Representative Chris Paddie from East Texas authored the House amendment.

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CHRIS PADDIE: There is absolutely no intent, and I would argue nothing in this language discriminates against anyone. In fact, it makes sure that there are reasonable accommodations for all children.

GOODWYN: The bill prohibits transgender students from using the bathroom which correlates to their gender identity. Instead, their school must create a separate, single-stall facility for them. Republican Representative Jason Villalba from Dallas says he was initially opposed to the bathroom bill but last night decided to vote for it.

JASON VILLALBA: I have been very vocal on this. I've spoken against orthodoxy in the Republican Party for a long time. And I've said, look; this is important we do not discriminate. I felt like last night, we passed a measure that was thoughtful, genuine, common sense and met the needs of both sides.

RAFAEL ANCHIA: The reality is that these politics are sick.

GOODWYN: Representative Rafael Anchia, also from Dallas, is among the many House Democrats who fought tooth and nail until about midnight to stop the bathroom bill. The Texas Association of Business also fought the bill, fearing the same kind of billion-dollar fallout that North Carolina suffered. Anchia hopes the NBA, the NCAA and business groups will hold Texas accountable.

ANCHIA: Discrimination in any form is still discrimination, and it needs to be called out as such. And I'm hopeful that all of the entities that said that they were going to hold Texas' feet to the fire will continue to do so. We cannot let this stand.

GOODWYN: The leadership in the Texas Senate is expected to approve the House's version of the bathroom bill, and it's anticipated that Texas Governor Greg Abbott will sign it. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News.

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