Fort Worth

Patrick: Bathroom bill a top priority for Texas lawmakers

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick held a press conference before the Fort Worth school board meeting May 10. Opponents and supporters of guidelines that allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice had their say at the school board meeting.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick held a press conference before the Fort Worth school board meeting May 10. Opponents and supporters of guidelines that allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice had their say at the school board meeting. jlmarshall@star-telegram.com

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced Thursday the filing of Senate Bill 6, a so-called bathroom bill, described as a public safety measure that allows businesses to create their own restroom policies and keeps public schools from allowing transgender students to use the facilities corresponding to their gender identity.

“The people of Texas elected us to stand up for common decency, common sense and public safety,” Patrick said in a statement. “This legislation codifies what has been common practice in Texas and everywhere else forever — that men and women should use separate, designated bathrooms. It is supported by an overwhelming majority of Texans including both Democrats and Republicans, Hispanics, African-Americans and Anglos, men and women.”

The bill is authored by state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham.

Patrick, who last year called for Fort Worth school district Superintendent Kent Scribner to resign when the district adopted guidelines to protect transgender and other students from bullying and harassment, said the bill ensures that businesses can determine their own bathroom policies and “that no public school can institute a bathroom policy that allows boys to go in girls restrooms, showers and locker rooms and girls to go in boys restrooms, showers and locker rooms.”

Patrick said the “Privacy Protection Act” is a top priority for the GOP-controlled Legislature, which convenes next week, the Associated Press reported. Lawmakers likely will support it, even though Texas’ largest business lobbying group says it and other anti-gay rights proposals could cost the state up to $8.5 billion and 100,000-plus jobs.

Senate Bill 6 comes as North Carolina continues a high-profile fight about its regulation of public bathrooms for transgender people. North Carolina faced boycotts, and potentially billions of dollars in lost state revenue, after passing its own version last year, according to the Associated Press.

Senate Bill 6 also follows local controversy surrounding Fort Worth school district guidelines aimed at protecting students. Those guidelines, adopted by the Fort Worth school district to support its anti-discrimination policy, aimed to protecting transgender students and other students from bullying and harassment. However, the issue became divisive.

Those opposed to the guidelines said it was a matter of safety. Patrick called for Scribner to resign, saying, “Every parent, especially those of young girls, should be outraged.”

Patrick also held a press conference before the May 10 school board meeting in Fort Worth in which he criticized Scribner. Hundreds of others showed up at the meeting, both in support and opposition to Scribner.

In July, Scribner announced revised transgender guidelines that deal with student on a case-by-case basis.

“Our efforts were always about the safety of children,” Scribner has reiterated since the controversy died down.

He said the district worked very closely with the community to develop a set of guidelines that ensure fairness and safety for all our students. He added that they follow the law.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives and The Associated Press.

Speaking before the morning session at the State GOP Convention in Dallas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks about the FWISD transgendered bathroom controversy.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick talks to the media before the FWISD Board meeting in Fort Worth, TX, May 10, 2016. Former Fort Worth councilman Joel Burns said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is “out of bounds” for “picking a fight” with the Fort Worth school dis

Former Fort Worth councilman Joel Burns said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is “out of bounds” for “picking a fight” with the Fort Worth school district over a transgender bathroom policy. (Star-Telegram/Joyce Marshall)

Diane A. Smith: 817-390-7675, @dianeasmith1

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