On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott came off the sidelines and is now openly supporting legislation to bar men from entering women’s public restrooms, showers, and locker rooms – but the bill he is supporting is markedly weaker than a related reform passed by the Texas Senate months ago.
“I applaud the House and Senate for tackling an issue that is of growing concern to parents and communities across Texas who are now looking to the Legislature for solutions,” Abbott said in the statement. “Rep. Simmons is offering a thoughtful proposal to make sure our children maintain privacy in our school bathrooms and locker rooms. As the debate on this issue continues, I will work with the House and Senate to ensure we find a solution and ultimately get a bill to my desk that I will sign into law.”
Simmons’ legislation would abolish and pre-empt local regulations concerning bathroom policies, but is considerably weaker than its counterpart, Senate Bill 6 by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham). Notably the legislation does nothing to preserve traditional gender norms in public restrooms and has no enforcement mechanisms.
In short, it’s a weak-kneed half measure that is effectively toothless.
Backed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and a large number of conservative organizations, SB 6, also known as the Texas Privacy Act, passed the Texas Senate with unanimous support from Senate Republicans and Democrat State Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville.
If passed by the House, the legislation would also pre-empt local ordinances seeking to dictate policies at private businesses. Additionally, the legislation would limit the use of bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms at government buildings (including public schools and universities) to biological sex.
When asked about the issue, social conservatives overwhelmingly preferred SB 6 to Simmons’ legislation, saying it is substantially stronger and more robust.
“Over a month ago Republicans in the Texas Senate overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 6 to protect the privacy of Texas women and girls,” said Dr. Steve Hotze of Conservative Republicans of Texas. “The legislation is supported by over 84% of Texas Republican primary voters. Straus should let the people’s representatives vote on SB 6.”
“Why is it so difficult to legislate that Texans want ‘No Men in Women’s Bathrooms!’?” he asked.
Simmons’ legislation will be considered in the State Affairs Committee chaired by State Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana) tomorrow. Senate Bill 6 has been deliberately stalled by House Speaker Joe Straus, who opposes the legislation and refused to refer it to committee.
Abbott’s actions on the matter are a marked improvement from earlier this year where he had refused to speak out on the issue other than an occasional tweet castigating the NFL for opposing the reform. He has refused to comment regarding SB 6, despite conservatives clamoring for him to get forcefully involved on the issue for months.
It is notable that Abbott did strongly support the campaign against men in women’s restrooms during the referendum on Houston’s equal rights ordinance (HERO) in 2015.