Senate Committee takes up bathroom privacy bills

The committee is taking up the bathroom privacy legislation.

AUSTIN - UPDATE: The Senate committee approved SB3 Friday night with an 8-1 vote. No vote was taken on SB91. 

 

A long line of people patiently waited in line Friday morning to sign up and testify on Senate Bill 3 (SB3) and Senate Bill 91 (SB91), the special session versions of the so-called bathroom bill.

Inside the hearing, Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), who authored the bills, explained both SB3 and SB91 would require people in facilities owned by political subdivisions, which are cities and counties, and public and charter schools use multiple-occupancy restrooms, showers and changing facilities according to the sex on their birth certificates. The bills also prohibit those political subdivisions and schools from creating and enforcing policies to protect a protected class against discrimination as it relates to the use of restrooms or athletic activities.

The difference between SB3 and SB91 is SB91 will allow political subdivisions to create policies if it's in accordance with federal law. Kolkhorst calls the difference in the bills a nuance that's a precautionary measure.

Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) explained it another way.

"Oh so it's only to differentiate the bills for the purpose of having one in your back pocket," Zaffirini said.

"That's a very plain way to say it," Kolkhorst replied.

The public had until noon to sign up to testify. A total of 250 people signed up, with those against the bill heavily outweighing those testifying in support of it. 

In the first group of people testifying was Jess Herbst, the Mayor of New Hope, Texas. Herbst is the state's first openly trans Mayor and one of two transgender elected officials in the country. She said the bills aren't about safety.

"It is already against the law to attack somebody," Herbst said. "It is already against the law for voyeurism. Their bill, if it passes, will not change anything for the few predators that attack people. It's gonna make it a crime for me to go use the bathroom."

Ashley Smith, who is gaining popularity for posting a picture with the Governor with the words "bathroom buddy" above it, explained to the Senators that changing a birth certificate isn't easy.

"Even though a Texas court has ordered that my birth certificate be changed to female, I was born in the state of Alabama and they refuse to change it," she told KVUE News. 

But Dana Hodges says there's another voice in this debate. She was unknowingly recorded by a man in a business' public restroom.

"My heart does go out to the transgender community that have made the claims that they've been assaulted or embarrassed using public facilities. I know what that feels like. I get it. But I can't lose my rights in the process," said Hodges. 

At 11:00 a.m., a group of people rallied against SB3 and SB91 in the outdoor rotunda near the committee hearing. 

"No hate! No fear! Trans-phobia has no place here," they chanted. 

"My family has traveled to Austin for the third time this year to testify," Frank Gonzales told the crowd. 

His 7-year-old daughter Libby is transgender.

"It pains me to admit that it took me years to come to support my daughter. My family has gone through years of therapy, spoken to countless professionals and have made a very well-informed and thoughtful decision," he said. 

"This child is a gift and I don't have to understand how or why this is the life God chose her to live," Gonzales added. 

Kimberly Shappley knows that struggle too. The Christian pastor and conservative republican's 6-year-old daughter Kai is trans. Shappley said she and her husband tried conversion therapy and other tactics on Kai for two years before accepting her.

At Kai's school in Pearland, Texas, the first grader was told she would only be allowed to use the boy's restroom or the restroom in the nurses' office

"My daughter has one facility on the entire campus. If the nurse isn't in her office, the office is locked," said Shappley. "When all of her girlfriends go to the restroom together, she doesn't get to go with them. That is called segregation."

Kai's already had one accident at school because the office was locked.

During the hearing, Kolkhorst said the bills are about safety and fairness.

"Ask a parent if they approve of allowing boys to shower with girls in a locker room," she said. "Ask a woman how safe she feels when a man appears into her restroom. Ask a female athlete if it's fair for her after she's spent her lifetime trying to compete in a sport if it's fair that a boy decides to play in her sport."

And Kolkhorst had a message for the Texas Business Association, which is launching a million dollar radio ad campaign to fight the bills.

"I put daughters before dollars on this issue," Kolkhorst said. 

But Gonzales, Shappley and the parents of other transgender children who testified asked, who's daughters.

The State Affairs Committee is expected to vote on the bills after testimony ends. 

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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