More than 250 sign up to testify in public hearing on ‘bathroom bill’

Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, speaks at the Senate Committee on State Affairs regarding the "bathroom bill." (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, speaks at the Senate Committee on State Affairs regarding the "bathroom bill." (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs heard several hours of testimony from the public at a hearing regarding Senate Bill 3 and Senate Bill 91.

The bills amount to legislation referred to as the “bathroom bill,” which would require that Texans use facilities based on their birth sex and not their gender identity.

The legislation reads that “each multiple-occupancy restroom, shower and changing facility of a political subdivision, including a public school district, or an open-enrollment charter school must be designated for and used only by persons of the same sex as stated on a person’s birth certificate.”

The bill was first introduced during the regular session as Senate Bill 6, by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. It became the subject of much debate among lawmakers and activists this year.

“We must look at, for all people, the safety, privacy, and dignity, of our students and give schools clear guidance in this matter,” Kolkhorst said as she presented the bill in committee.

“SB 3 which is different than SB 6 is about finding a balance between the right to declare your gender and the right of a parent to protect their child,” she mentioned.

Committee staff said 251 people registered to testify before the committee, with testimony starting at 9 a.m., and lasting well into the night.

“I am extremely hopeful that it will get passed through and that next regular session will be able to come in and put in some better regulations,” said Brian McAuliffe, who testified in support of the bill.

“The problem comes into play when you have pedophiles that will take advantage of the gaps in the law, and they’ll go into the restrooms,” he added.

“This is really a safety issue,” McAuliffe explained. “And that’s what my testimony was about, is that people especially our children deserve the right to feel safe when they’re going to the restroom.”

The support for the legislation was also met with protests.

The Human Rights Campaign, Equality Texas, the ACLU of Texas, the Texas Freedom Network and the Transgender Education Network of Texas were among those to hold a rally and press conference outside the area where the hearing was underway on Friday.

Demonstrators protest Texas' proposed "bathroom bill" legislation outside a public hearing at the Senate Committee on State Affairs. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
Demonstrators protest Texas’ proposed “bathroom bill” legislation outside a public hearing at the Senate Committee on State Affairs. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

“It will target people that have done nothing wrong,” Jess Herbst, mayor of New Hope, Texas, said after testifying against the proposed bills.

“As a transgender woman I have a dog in this fight,” Herbst added. “It is the civil rights issue of our time. I feel like North Carolina set up 50 dominoes in a row and Texas is the first one on that chain. If we let this pass I’m afraid it’s going to fall for the whole state, and it’s going to be, we’re going to go back to the dark ages.”

“I have people here from the valley, from Houston, from El Paso, from all over,” Herbst continued. “When SB 6 was debated before [in regular session], when we had the same thing, it was 87 percent against. When we did the House, it was 95 percent against. It is not Texas versus Austin, it is a minority of right-wing people who are afraid of us versus the rest of Texas. If you look around you’ll see Texas is telling everybody know we don’t want this. Nobody wants this.”

Ashley Smith also testified against the bathroom bill.

“The bill that they are proposing would put transgender people like me in great danger,” Smith explained. “This bill is designed really not to protect anybody’s safety, but it is really to target and stigmatize and demonize the transgender community.”

Smith attended Gov. Greg Abbott’s 2018 campaign launch on July 14, and took a photo with Abbott, which she posted online.

“How will the Potty Police know I’m transgender if the Governor doesn’t?” the caption read.

“Under normal circumstances when I would meet someone like the governor it wouldn’t be any of his business. It’s only because of this ridiculous law that’s been proposed that I wanted to make that point,” Smith stated.

“I don’t like to cause a ruckus, and a public disturbance, but if I were to follow this law that’s being proposed by Sen. Kolkhorst, I would be walking into a men’s restroom and immediately face God knows what,” Smith added.

“I put daughters before dollars on this issue,” Kolkhorst said.

The legislation would also apply to Title IX programs in school athletics programs. Supporters of the bathroom bill said boys who compete as girls in school sports would create unfair advantages and tarnish the record books. Opponents argued the law, if passed, would prevent student-athletes from competing on the teams with which they identify.

Lawmakers planned a full weekend schedule of committee meetings, including public hearings on Saturday and Sunday in several different committees.

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