Lt. Gov. Patrick takes on speaker of the House over future of ‘bathroom bill’

FILE - Bathroom sign (Nexstar File Photo)
FILE - Bathroom sign (Nexstar File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a striking reproach of the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Speaker Joe Straus was siding with the policies of former President Barack Obama instead of Texans when it comes to the proposed “bathroom bill.”

Speaker Straus, R-San Antonio, said earlier Friday evening that the House will not negotiate with the Senate on a compromise for the proposed “bathroom bill.”

“As far as I’m concerned, it was enough. We will go no further. This is the right thing to do in order to protect our economy from billions of dollars in losses and more importantly to protect the safety of some very vulnerable young Texans,” Straus said.

The House amended Senate Bill 2078 with language that would require school districts to provide single-occupancy bathrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities for students who don’t want to use the ones associated with their biological sex, the Texas Tribune reported. 

The House wanted the bathroom bill to be limited to schools, while the Senate favored expansion to all public buildings, even overriding city ordinances.

At an 8 p.m. press conference following Speaker Straus’ comments, Lt. Gov. Patrick says the issue of Texas privacy has the support of the “overwhelming majority of people in Texas… They don’t want their children showering together.”

“Women want to protected in government bathrooms across the state,” Patrick said. “But Speaker Straus is not concerned about what Texans think, only what he thinks.”

The Republican lieutenant governor accused Straus of using “the language of left-wing Democrats,” particularly when it comes to arguments the bill would hurt the Texas economy.

“[Straus] has decided to support the policies of Barack Obama, who said I want boys and girls in every shower in every school in the country,” Patrick said, referencing former President Obama’s directive sent to school districts nationwide in May 2016.

The letter did not impose any new legal requirements, but federal officials say the guidance was meant to clarify school districts’ obligations to provide students with nondiscriminatory environments.

“Thanks to Speaker Straus,” Patrick continued,” we’re going to have a special session that he created.”

Gov. Abbott’s office sent out a statement saying, “Despite tensions, the session is not yet over. The taxpayers deserve to have the Legislature finish their work on time. Only the governor can determine when or if there is a special session, and if so, what issues are addressed.”

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