Amendment restricts transgender students bathroom use in schools

Claire Allbright

The Texas House of Representatives initially approved an amendment late Sunday night that would require transgender students to use the bathroom according to the gender on their birth certificate in public and charter schools.

The amendment, which passed by a vote of 91-50, was attached to Senate Bill 2078, a bill intended to strengthen schools’ emergency operations and safety measures.

Under the amendment, transgender students may still use single-stall facilities instead of using bathrooms, changing facilities, and locker rooms based on their “biological sex.”

During debate Sunday night, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, likened the transgender bathroom issue to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and segregated restrooms based on race.

“Bathrooms divided us then, and it divides us now,” Thompson said. “America has long recognized that separate but equal is not equal at all.”

The amendment’s author, Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, said the language in the proposal does not discriminate against transgender students and helps schools districts handle the situation.

“This does not provide an accommodation for a protected class of students, this provides an accommodation for all students,” Paddie said.

The amendment came after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick threatened a special session if either Senate Bill 2 or Senate Bill 6 are not passed before the end of session on May 29.

SB 6, authored by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, would require transgender individuals to use the bathroom and changing facilities according to their “biological sex” in public schools and government buildings. Additionally, SB 2 is a property tax reform proposal Patrick has hailed as one of his priorities.

Following the passage of the amendment, Joe Straus, speaker of the House, said in a statement this amendment was the House’s way of addressing the bathroom issue. Despite Straus’ opposition to bathroom proposals, he said it isn’t his place to enforce his will on the chamber.

“Representative Paddie’s amendment will allow schools to continue to handle sensitive issues as they have been handling them,” Straus said in a statement. “I believe this amendment will allow us to avoid the severely negative impact of Senate Bill 6.”

Gov. Greg Abbott has the ability to call a special session after the legislature adjourns. While Abbott has not commented on whether he would invoke a special session, he has indicated both bills are priorities of his as well.

The House gave final approval to SB 2078 with the amendment attached on Monday by a vote of 94-51. Now, the bill goes back to the upper chamber where senators have to accept the amendment before the bill heads to Abbott’s desk for his signature.