Texas Transgender Bathroom Bill Dies as House Adjourns a Day Early
Members of the Texas House discuss a point of order Tuesday during a special session in Austin.Eric Gay / AP
By Alex Johnson
A measure to restrict transgender people's access to bathrooms in schools and other public buildings in Texas died Tuesday night when the state House abruptly adjourned without passing it.
The so-called bathroom bill was one of several measures that were supposed to have been addressed during a 30-day special legislative session scheduled to end Wednesday. But House Speaker Joe Straus gaveled the session to a close a day early over objections from fellow Republicans.
Kyle Biedermann, who represents a district west of the capital Austin, was one of many Republicans complaining about the surprise adjournment Tuesday night.
The bill was supported by Gov. Greg Abbott and especially by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who charged that "the House quit tonight."
"With 27 hours to go, they walked off the job," he said at a late-night news conference in Austin during which he raised the specter of "sexual predators who would follow women into bathrooms."
"The people of Texas don't want that," he said.
Under state law, Abbott can call another special session, but Patrick indicated that he wouldn't press for one, pointing to several victories for Republicans on other measures during the session, notably taxes.
The measure was similar to one that was enacted and then repealed in North Carolina in March. As in North Carolina, scores of Texas businesses and moderate Republican lawmakers opposed the measure — including Straus, who has said the time spent on the bill was "absurd."
Major corporations, including Halliburton and ExxonMobil, helped fund the opposition campaign, arguing that the measure would make it hard for them to recruit talent.
The bill's author, Rep. Ron Simmons, a Republican from Carrollton, told The Dallas Morning News on Tuesday night, meanwhile, that the fight wasn't over.
"The legislation might be dead, but the issue is still very much alive until it is solved at the state or federal level," Simmons told the newspaper. "A patchwork of local ordinances or policies is never best for all Texans."
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said Tuesday night that groups opposed to the bill "recognize that these extremists may not learn from their failures."
"We remain vigilant and ready to keep fighting," Keisling said in a statement.
Likewise, JoDee Winterhof, a senior vice president of the nonprofit pro-gay-rights Human Rights Campaign, said Texans could only "breathe a temporary sigh of relief."
"We hope that this time, this issue remains settled," Winterhof said. "Rest assured, the same eyes that watched Texas lawmakers this year will continue to keep a strong, watchful eye, and if the legislature attempts to attack our communities again, all of us will come out with the same level of force and strength."
Alex Johnson is a reporter and editor for NBC News based in Los Angeles.