School groups say House bathroom amendment open to interpretations

Lauren Perry
May 24, 2017

In the very early hours of Monday morning, Texas state senators passed a bill to ensure adoption agencies are allowed to discriminate against LGBT people, same-sex couples, Jews, Muslims, single parents, and other minorities, based on their religious beliefs.

The legislation, now moving to the Senate requires public high school students to use bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate.

Senators voted 21-10 to approve House Bill 21, which the House originally meant to reform a complicated system for allocating money to public schools and to provide a funding boost for most public schools.

The Texas Legislature passed a bill extending religious liberty protections to the child welfare system, which would allow adoption agencies to reject potential parents on religious grounds.

"It's absolutely about child safety", said Texas Republican Rep. Chris Paddie, who wrote the amendment's language and said it was not discriminatory. "White. Colored. I was living through that era ... bathrooms divided us then, and it divides us now", she said. "Separate but equal is not equal at all", she said.

The so-called "second-chance" bill previously cleared the House and was passed Monday by the Senate, which included an amendment ensuring that Texans convicted of some crimes involving sex or violence wouldn't be eligible.

Senate Bill 2078 still has to head back to the Senate for any final tweaks before it heads to Governor Greg Abbott's desk.

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Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement the measure "is a unsafe, discriminatory bill" that represents anti-LGBT animus "coloring so much of the Texas Legislature this session".

The amendment was added to an unrelated education bill in the Texas House and would only apply to children while attending public and charter schools. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, will have to decide whether to sign off on the House's changes to the bill, which focuses on school districts' "multihazard emergency operations plans".

But Speaker of the House Joe Straus had a different take. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, an outspoken conservative, made the bathroom legislation one of his priorities this year, describing it as a commonsense way to keep men out of women's restrooms in order to prevent crime.

"Gov. Abbott's hope is that the House and the Senate will agree on a measure that, at a minimum, protects the privacy of students in locker rooms and restrooms, and he will continue to work with members of both chambers to achieve that goal", said John Wittman, a spokesman for the governor.

"I believe this amendment will allow us to avoid the severely negative impact of Senate Bill 6", the statement said.

"No amount of discrimination is acceptable", Equality Texas said in a statement Sunday night. The NCAA pulled sporting events and the state faced losing billions of dollars in related economic fallout, though some opposition has quieted since North Carolina lawmakers voted in March for a partial repeal.

Other reports by VgToday

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