Texas House bill attempts to address controversial bathroom issue

Posted by Patrick Driscoll on

State Rep. Ron Simmons of Carrollton has authored a House bill he hoped would be less controversial than the version already passed by the Senate in its effort to address the burning problem of keeping transgendered men and women and boys and girls out of the bathrooms where people look like they do.

But Simmons’ bill is even worse than the Senate bill. I’ll explain why in a minute. But first let’s hear from a little girl. Last week a House committee held a marathon hearing on Simmons’ bill. The session went until 5 a.m., so the legislators were not able to hear from 7-year-old Libby Gonzales. She had fallen asleep.

Born male, Libby identified as a girl from a very early age. Her parents, Frank and Rachel, didn’t act on it at first, but they noticed that their child was becoming depressed and acting out, and said he wanted Santa Claus to turn him into a girl. She told her younger sister, “I have a boy's body. But I am a girl in my brain and in my heart.”

Her parents sought counseling and expertise and decided to accept Libby as she clearly was. So here is what a very happy, bubbly Libby wanted to say to the legislators:

“My name is Libby Gonzales. I am 7 years old, and I am transgender. I love my school and my friends, and they love me, too. I don’t want to be scared to go to the bathroom or anywhere public. And I never ever want to use the boys' bathroom. It would be gross and weird. Please keep me safe.”

Proponents of the bathroom bills say their intention is to keep girls and women safe, despite being unable to produce any evidence that allowing transgendered women to use female facilities — as they quietly have for decades — endangers anyone. But their solution could lead to women feeling threatened, and to many men feeling uncomfortable and some even hostile.

Consider some of the people who would be required to use the women’s bathrooms. Through hormone therapy, many individuals born as women can become quite convincingly male. Does Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick really want to send muscled and tattooed body builders into the women’s room?

And hormone therapy can make individuals born as men appear as candidates for old-fashioned pin-up calendars — or as dignified women executives, for that matter. Either way, they could disturb the equilibrium of a men’s room.

So how is Representative Simmons’ House bathroom bill better than the Senate version, which would fine school districts and cities for accommodating transgendered people? It isn’t. It’s worse — because it is broader than bathrooms.

It’s a simple bill, covering only one page. It says this:

“A political subdivision may not adopt an order, ordinance, or other measure to protect a class of persons from discrimination; or reduce or expand a class of persons protected under state law from discrimination.

“An order, ordinance, or other measure that is adopted by a political subdivision before the date this section becomes law and that violates Subsection (a) is null and void.”

The bill would not fine cities or school districts for protecting transgendered people. It would simply wipe out ordinances that at least a dozen Texas cities have enacted to provide equal protection for sexual minorities and others, and prevent cities from ever enacting such protections in the future.

We would instead be limited to the policies of a state government that in recent years has been found by two separate courts to have intentionally discriminated against blacks and Hispanics in voting matters, and has sued the federal government over policies that would prohibit discrimination against transgendered persons for certain health programs, or allow federal medical leave benefits for some same-sex couples, or would permit Texas church groups to welcome Syrian refugees.

If this passes and gets the governor’s signature, it will mean Texas sees both Washington and its own cities as tyrants for wanting to protect the vulnerable. Such as Libby Gonzales.

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