Legislation proposes to regulate access to restrooms, locker rooms

AUSTIN — Texas now has a “bathroom bill.”

The Lone Star State has joined Alabama, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington as states where legislation has been filed in an effort to restrict access to restrooms, locker rooms and other sex-segregated facilities on the basis of sex or gender.

On Jan. 5, Texas Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, filed Senate Bill 6, titled the Texas Privacy Act. The legislation, she said, would address “the personal privacy concerns of many Texans.”

The legislation comes after a May 13, 2016, “joint guidance” from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice “to help provide educators the information they need to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex.”

Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal agencies said, “schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student's sex, including a student's transgender status.” The federal agencies signaled their intent to treat a student's gender identity as the student's sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX.

However, last fall, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas granted an injunction against enforcement of the federal “guidance.” The judge ruled that the injunction applies not only to Texas, but to all states.

Kolkhorst termed the federal agencies’ “guidance” an “edict.” She said “the proposal to have boys and girls potentially showering and using the same restroom” alarmed the public.

“This bill is written not to begin a controversy, but to end one," said Kolkhorst. "The Texas Privacy Act is a thoughtful solution to a sensitive issue. It preserves an expected level of privacy for our public schools and buildings. At the same time, it also allows for schools and universities to make personal accommodations for those requesting an alternate setting. Senate Bill 6 also allows Texas businesses to determine their own policy without government interference."

Kolkhorst said SB 6 “is unique” in that it enhances penalties for crimes committed in a bathroom against any individual, regardless of their sex or gender identity.

Opponents of “bathroom legislation” have argued that it is unconstitutional not to accommodate transgender people and the passage of such legislation would result in negative impacts on business activity.



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