Texas 'Bathroom Bills' Stalled in Special Legislative Session
Transgender activist and San Antonio architect Ashley Smith speaks at a rally against a so-called "bathroom bill" being considered by the Republican-dominated Texas Senate at the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas.Jon Herskovitz / Reuters
/ Source: Reuters
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas measures to restrict access for transgender people to bathrooms in schools and public buildings appear doomed this week after hundreds of businesses stood in opposition and moderate Republican powerbrokers blocked the bills.
The so-called bathroom bills have caused rifts among Republicans who control the state's legislature, leaving no likely path to passage before a 30-day special session wraps on Wednesday, analysts and lawmakers said.
"The bathroom bill in this session is dead and buried with dirt over its coffin," said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.
Enactment in Texas, the most populous Republican-dominated state, could give momentum to other socially conservative states for additional action on an issue that has become a flashpoint in the U.S. culture wars.
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But House Speaker Joe Straus, a pro-business Republican who controls the agenda in the body, has shown little interest in passing a bathroom bill, which he said was not a priority.
His position was buffeted by a well-financed campaign from major corporations including Texas-based energy companies Halliburton and ExxonMobil Global Services, which have said the bills were discriminatory and would make it hard for them to recruit top talent.
Supporters of the legislation, who say it can help protect women and children from sexual assaults, have not given up.
But they acknowledge there is only a slim chance of success, with lawmakers still trying to reach deals on almost all of the 20 priority items set by Republican Governor Greg Abbott for the session.
Senate Bill 3, which made it through the Senate and stalled in the House, requires people to use restrooms, showers and locker rooms in public schools and other state and local government facilities that match the sex on their birth certificate, as opposed to their gender identity.
A push for bathroom bills nationally sputtered after North Carolina partially repealed such a measure in March after boycotts by athletic organizations and businesses that have cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
Opposition against the Texas measures includes global tech giants IBM and Apple, major Texas city police chiefs who contested claims the bills would protect public safety, left-leaning religious leaders and the National Hockey League's Dallas Stars team.
Republican Representative Ron Simmons, who sponsored a version of the bathroom legislation in the Texas House, said the privacy issue at the heart of the bills is supported by a wide majority of Republican primary voters.
"Just because we don’t pass legislation doesn’t mean that the issue is not going to be there," he said.