Will Texas be the next restroom battleground?
In April a Fort Worth school superintendent established a compassionate bathroom policy, allowing transgender students access to single-stall restrooms. This, along with megastore chain Target’s inclusive bathroom policy, have incited a lot of conversation with Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick. Patrick has been outspoken about bathroom policies in recent months, leading the charge on what has become a national battlefield of restroom laws.
Patrick seems to remain unfazed by the intense amount of backlash and fallout from North Carolina’s law being passed, and is making it clear that it is a priority for him in the the next few months. The U.S. Justice Department is suing over the North Carolina law restricting transgender people’s access to certain restrooms. From the NY Times: “Days after the Justice Department demanded that North Carolina back away from a new state law restricting access to restrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms, Mr. McCrory, in a lawsuit filed in Federal District Court here, accused the department of “a baseless and blatant overreach” stemming from a “radical reinterpretation” of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The state General Assembly’s Republican leaders filed a similar suit against the Justice Department.”
The next Texas legislative session isn’t until Jan 10th of 2017, but the debate of bathroom law is currently at the forefront of many politicians. From the Texas Tribune: “”I think the handwriting is on the bathroom wall: Men need to stay out of the ladies’ room,” Patrick said. “This isn’t about equal rights. This isn’t about being against anyone or anti-any person. This is about common sense, common decency and allowing women to have comfort when they’re in the bathroom.”
While there are many who agree with that sentiment, the statistics point towards an invalid argument. A coalition of over 200 national, state and local organizations across the U.S. that work with sexual assault and domestic violence survivors are objecting to the justifications given by lawmakers to forbid transgender people from using the bathroom of their choosing. Assault is statistically far more likely to happen to a person who appears as one gender and walks into a room meant for the other gender. 64% of all transgendered people experience assault in their lifetimes. Vox Media states that: “In two investigations, Media Matters confirmed with experts and officials in 12 states and 17 school districts with protections for LGBTQ people that they had no increases in sex crimes after they enacted LGBTQ protections. Often people counter that there are examples of men sneaking into women’s bathrooms to attack women. But as PolitiFact reported, none of the examples cited in the US happened after a city or state passed a nondiscrimination law or otherwise let trans people use the bathroom or locker room for their gender identity. Instead, these seem to be examples of men doing awful things regardless of the law — which has, unfortunately, happened since the beginning of civilization.”
The other issue now to take into consideration is the tragic shootings at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. This shooting, while some politicians are backing away from “politicizing” the event, was an attack on an LGBTQ nightclub, and this is bringing into the forefront the numbers of anti-LGBTQ policy that has been brought forth since marriage equality passed. This fact could have a spotlight effect with bathroom legislation in the coming months.
While is is unclear how much government solidarity Lt. Gov Dan Patrick has with Texas officials. Governor Greg Abbott had signaled his stance on Twitter last year when he joined in with Patrick persuading Texans to reject the nondiscrimination ordinance. There are businesses and individuals in Texas who are concerned with the government feeding into an already established perception of Texas being discriminatory and conservative.
“If Target wants to close all their stores in the state of Texas, I will go over and help them pack and help them leave,” Texas Rep Matt Shaheen said. “I will die on this issue politically. I am going to bat for my wife and my daughters.”
Events unfolding in North Carolina and the upcoming presidential election may change the political climate somewhat, and only time can tell if Texas officials with group together behind this issue in January.