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Texas, Arkansas Advance Anti-Transgender 'Bathroom Bills'

Texas and Arkansas both advanced North Carolina-style “bathroom bills” that target the transgender community.
Members of the transgender community take part in a rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol on Monday, March 6, 2017, in Austin, Texas. The group is opposing a "bathroom bill" that would require people to use public bathrooms and restrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate.Eric Gay / AP

Texas and Arkansas both advanced North Carolina-style “bathroom bills” on Wednesday that target the transgender community.

In a 21-10 vote largely along party lines, the Texas Senate passed S.B. 6, or the “Privacy Protection Act.” The bill would require people to use bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate, as opposed to their gender identity, in public schools, universities and government buildings.

"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," Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, the bill’s primary sponsor, said during a debate on Tuesday.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, assailed the bill in a statement sent to NBC Out.

“By voting this bill through, the Texas Senate has officially declared that the 125,000 transgender adults and thousands of trans children who live in Texas are second-class citizens,” Keisling said. “Trans people in Texas have it hard enough. These legislators are supposed to help their constituents, not add to the struggles they already face. We urge representatives in the House to do the right thing for all Texans and vote against this discriminatory bill.”

The bill, which has been opposed by several big businesses and sports leagues, still faces obstacles to becoming law. Notably, Republican House Speaker Joe Straus has repeatedly denounced the proposal as bad for business. Republican Governor Greg Abbott hasn’t taken a clear public stance on the bill.

Related: North Carolina's Newest LGBTQ Lawmaker Fights to Repeal HB2 'Bathroom Bill'

In neighboring Arkansas, a Senate committee moved closer Wednesday to approving Senate Bill 774, or the “Arkansas Physical Privacy and Safety Act.” The proposal would require people in public schools and government buildings to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond their birth gender.

"No child should have to worry that their school might change its policy to force them to shower or undress in front of a member of the opposite sex as has been the case around the country," Republican Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, who introduced the legislation, said in a statement.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights organization, took a firm stand against the proposal.

“Simply put, S.B. 774 targets transgender Arkansans just because of who they are. HRC Arkansas opposes any bill that singles out LGBTQ Arkansans for discrimination, and, laudably, so does Gov. Asa Hutchinson,” Kendra R. Johnson, state director of HRC Arkansas, said in a statement emailed to NBC Out. “Arkansas should learn from the mistake North Carolina made with its disastrous HB2 law, and reject this discriminatory measure.”

HRC also has its eye on a similar proposal in Tennessee, according to a spokesman for the organization. Tennessee lawmaker Mark Pody indicated he plans to reintroduce a controversial “bathroom bill” later this session, according to The Tennessean.

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