AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Discussions surrounding Texas’ divisive proposed legislation took center stage at the capitol on Thursday.
Senate Bill 3, also known as the “bathroom bill” and the “privacy act,” would require people to use restrooms, locker rooms, and showers that correspond to the birth sex listed on birth certificates.
Supporters said the bill would protect the privacy and safety of Texans. Opponents argue the bill has already impacted transgender Texans, and has dangerous implications if the bill becomes law.
A group of faith leaders from across the state joined together to announce their support for the bill, and a similar version proposed in the House.
Speakers at Thursday’s event included Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, and Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, who authored the legislation in their chambers.
“The state government says that men should go into the men’s restroom, and women should go into the women’s restroom,” Kolkhorst said in her remarks. “That should apply to our counties, our cities, and our school districts.”
Houston Pastor Willie Davis, with MacGregor Palm Community Baptist Church, said, “You can’t cause something equal, when you’re taking away the rights of others. One of the things [is] that we’re here and we want to make it clear that we represent, and that is the fact, that the Speaker of the House needs to let the House vote.”
Chants of “Let the House vote” were heard throughout the event, as participants urged Speaker Joe Straus and Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, who chairs the State Affairs Committee, to let the bill be voted on by lawmakers.
A short time later, inside the office of Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, activists with the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Texas, and others, gathered to speak against the legislation they said endangers the lives of transgender people in Texas.
At a round table discussion, transgender children and adults shared some of the struggles they said they have faced after the creation of SB 3.
“God doesn’t just love people who aren’t trans, he loves everyone,” Marilyn Morrison, 9, a transgender girl from Dallas, said. “He loves everyone. He doesn’t just love specific people.”
“Please stop discrimination in Texas,” Morrison’s mother, Chelsa said. “You’re hurting our kids, you’re hurting families, you’re hurting your own constituents. My daughter is not a pawn in your game, none of our kids are. Do right by our kids, do right by our Texans, and stop this nonsense now.”
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, moderated the round table, and held a press conference afterward.
“Do the right thing, reject the politics of discrimination and hate,” Griffin said. “Voters are watching and history will judge.”
Hundreds testified in the Senate committee hearing on the bill, which passed the Senate in a 21-10 vote, with Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. siding with Republicans.
The House’s version was referred to the State Affairs committee on July 20.