The Texas state senate yesterday voted 21 to 10, mostly along party lines, to approve SB6, the hideous anti-transgender ‘bathroom bill’ that has been working its way through the legislature.
The primary sponsor of the bill, Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, gave an emotive speech to begin the debate around noon local time, taking issue with the notion that the bill is a solution in search of a problem, as many of her Democratic colleagues alleged.
“I will tell you as a woman, this is not a joke. This is about dressing rooms, lockers, showers and restrooms. This is about privacy and protection for all people,” Kolkhorst said. “It’s not perfect. It’s not easy when we talk about these issues. Cisgender. Transgender. How many genders are there? Are we created man and woman? Or do we internalize something different?”
The bill, known as SB6, would affect facilities in public schools, universities and government buildings, though not private businesses. The measure says the use of single-sex facilities should be based on “biological sex” and defines that as the sex listed on one’s birth certificate. Of the 13 states that are considering such measures, Texas may prove to be a bellwether.
Kolkhorst argued that the measure is not really about transgender people but about deterring predators who might take advantage of policies that allow restroom access based on gender identity — or, as she put it at one point, “those that might in some way use a vague idea of gender identification to go into a private and intimate spaces and do harm.”
A final vote on the bill is expected today.
Listen to Kolkhorst speak on a radio show earlier this year:
Conservative Christian Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (above) unveiled the bill in January.
In February, 142 prominent artists of various forms of expression signed onto a letter urging Texas legislators against making its forthcoming anti-transgender bathroom bill law.
The list included Lady Gaga, fresh from her Super Bowl triumph in Texas, and fellow musicians Sting, Cyndi Lauper, Britney Spears, Ryan Adams and Ariana Grande, as well as actors Julianne Moore, Laverne Cox, Amy Poehler, Broad City‘s Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, Kal Penn, Ewan McGregor and Connie Britton, along with Jimmy Kimmel, Amy Schumer, Padma Lakshmi, Miley Cyrus, Janelle Monae, Whoopi Goldberg and George Takei. Houston native Beyoncé did not appear among them, although Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines, originally from Lubbock and no stranger to political controversy, did.
The letter was organized by advocacy group Equality Texas, and was drafted in part by producer and musician Jack Antonoff. Here are some excerpts:
Please know that the creative community is watching Texas, with love for all its people and its contributions to arts, music and culture.
We are also deeply troubled by the current legislation that would target the LGBTQ community in Texas.
SB6 and HB1362 would criminalize the simple act of a transgender person using a restroom that aligns with their gender identity—an act of simple dignity.
Artistic expression has always been a political act . . . we humbly add our names to that proud tradition today, in asking you to end the needless targeting of LGBTQ people in Texas.
As the Super Bowl came to Houston and Texas, so did greater focus on its bathroom bill, promising potential economic repercussions similar to those of North Carolina’s HB2. Indeed, the NFL has now proclaimed that it “embraces inclusiveness,” with a spokesman warning that “if a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law there [Texas], that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events.”
Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott responded with bravado rather than thoughtfulness, claiming that “the NFL needs to concentrate on playing football and get the heck out of politics.” In a tweet, he also sneered, with little apparent relevance, that the NFL had also sanctioned Tom Brady at the start of a season that saw him win his fifth Super Bowl.
These combative non sequiturs demonstrate the tough fight ahead to stop the bill in its tracks, and this high-profile, distinctive Equality Texas letter is part of that fight.
Additional reporting by Luis Damian Veron.