What Texas’ Bathroom Bills Actually Say – And What They Don’t

The coverage of the bathroom/locker room privacy issue in Texas has centered around the political battles between leaders, not the contents of specific legislation; as a result, many Texans have been left in the dark regarding what is actually IN the bills under discussion, and the ramifications if any particular bill passes. Somewhere between Speaker Straus’ ‘I don’t want the suicide of a single Texan on my hands’ and Patrick’s statement that transgendered people using the restroom of their choice is a ‘violation of public safety’, there is room to set aside the rhetoric and examine the actual bills under debate.

On the Senate side, SB3 has been offered by Sen. Kolkhorst. The House has two bills to consider, HB46 and HB50. The details and scope vary between them, and the governor is calling on the legislators to forge some kind of compromise. The rhetoric and spin around the bills are heavy, with ten hours of testimony heard on the Senate bill in committee, and multiple narratives being pushed by various interested parties online. But what do the bills actually say? How similar are the bills, and what does each propose to do?  You can find the links to the actual legislation below, so you can read the three short bills for yourself and not rely on spin and partisan media for information.

 

SB3 Passed out of State Affairs committee and sent to full Senate for a vote

  • Government buildings with multiple-occupancy restrooms, showers, and changing rooms ‘must be designated for and used only by persons of the same sex as stated on a person’s birth certificate’
  • Municipalities and other political entities such as school districts and charter schools cannot add classes of discriminated people to protect in regulating (1)  access to multiple-occupancy restrooms, showers, or changing facilities; or (2)  participation in athletic activities.
  • Only the state’s Attorney General can enforce this section by ordering an entity to act or issuing orders to preventing them from acting
  • Goes into effect immediately with 2/3 vote of both houses, or 90 days after the end of session if passed with less than 2/3 vote

So the bill says the rooms must be designated for men or women, but it does not say how this is to be done. It says women’s restrooms must only be used by people who are listed as such on their birth certificate but fails to explain who will monitor that or how. The bill also fails to list penalties for people who enter the wrong bathroom. There is no mention of the criminal code, and it does not appear to make it illegal for men to use women’s facilities.

HB46 – in State Affairs committee as of 7/24

  • Municipalities and other political entities such as school districts and charter schools cannot add classes of discriminated people to protect in regulating (1)  access to multiple-occupancy restrooms, showers, or changing facilities; or (2)  participation in athletic activities.
  • Only the state’s Attorney General can enforce this section by ordering an entity to act or issuing orders to preventing them from acting
  • Goes into effect immediately with 2/3 vote of both houses, or 90 days after the end of session if passed with less than 2/3 vote

This is almost identical in language to the Senate bill, with the notable exception of the first section. This House bill does not include the statement about birth certificates or designation of facilities; it merely prohibits political subdivisions from creating new classes of people to protect from discrimination in these areas in their codes and ordinances. There is no mention of the criminal code, penalties, or language regarding the use of the wrong facility.

HB50 – in State Affairs committee as of 7/24

  • School district trustees cannot add classes of discriminated people to protect in regulating access to multiple-occupancy restrooms, showers, or changing facilities
  • Only the state’s Attorney General can enforce this section by ordering an entity to act or issuing orders to preventing them from acting
  • Goes into effect immediately with 2/3 vote of both houses, or 90 days after the end of session if passed with less than 2/3 vote

Again, this bill is almost exactly the same as the Senate bill but focuses solely on school districts, not other political divisions like cities or counties. This bill also omits the birth certificate clause, the clause addressing the designation of facilities, and merely prohibits school districts from creating additional classes of people to protect from discrimination. There is no mention of the criminal code in this bill either, nor does it address penalties for using facilities meant for the opposite sex.

Things none of these bills do, but people are saying they will do:

  • Establish a police presence in these facilities
  • Make it illegal to use a bathroom of the opposite sex
  • Stop political divisions from making ordinances governing businesses
  • Establish criminal penalties for people using the wrong bathrooms
  • Prevent any sexual assault or predatory behavior
  • Increase penalties for sexual assaults occurring in these facilities

At the end of the day, it seems as though the legislation isn’t doing much of anything that either its supporters OR its detractors are promising. Opponents say it will cost Texas millions in revenue from boycotts and defecting businesses fearing a newly minted bathroom police, while supporters claim that the legislation is needed to protect women and girls (but not boys, interestingly).

Whichever way the legislation goes, each side will have a campaign issue to exploit in the future, which may have been their motivation all along.

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