Texas conservatives take on transgender restroom fight

Transgenderism | Lawmakers prepare to face the same boycotts and bigotry barbs lobbed at North Carolina
by Evan Wilt
Posted 2/20/17, 01:37 pm

WASHINGTON—The spotlight of the transgender debate is about to shine bright on Texas, where conservative lawmakers are bracing to continue the fight started in North Carolina last year.

The Texas legislature introduced a bill last month requiring all government facilities, including public schools, to keep restrooms, showers, and changing areas separated by biology, not gender identity. The law allows private business owners to make their own policies in accordance with their beliefs.

As lead advocate for the new Texas restroom policy, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says he has the motivation to see this fight to the end—even if it costs him his job. Texas will hold a hearing on the bill—comparable to North Carolina’s now infamous HB2 law—early next month. State lawmakers, including the dominant Republican caucus, remain divided on the issue. Fears of business boycotts and public ridicule could derail a bill Patrick asserts is “common sense.”

“You should never get full of yourself and say ‘I’m going to win this to prove a point,’” Patrick, a Republican, told me. “No, this is the right issue—this is the right thing to do.”

In 2016, North Carolina became a punching bag for LGBT advocates when state lawmakers blocked a City of Charlotte ordinance establishing identity-based restroom rules. The move generated widespread backlash from businesses choosing to boycott the state and LGBT groups smearing lawmakers as bigots. The nationwide fallout possibly cost former Gov. Pat McCrory his reelection bid.

Then the Obama administration weighed in by threatening to pull funding from any public schools that did not make special accommodations for transgender students.

Last year, a federal judge ruled the Obama administration overextended its authority and blocked the rule’s enforcement. The Obama administration sought a partial stay on the ruling, but the Trump administration’s Department of Justice withdrew the request the same day Attorney General Jeff Sessions took over the department.

This year, 14 states have pre-filed or introduced bills dealing with who can and cannot access public restrooms, locker rooms, or other gender-specific facilities. But as the largest GOP-controlled state in the country, Texas will influence the national conversation.

Patrick said Texas had to act since some school districts had already changed rules to allow boys and girls to change and shower in the same facilities. He told me the rule change causes confusion for children struggling with gender dysphoria and opens the window for sexual predators to take advantage: “These predators will have carte blanche to get into the ladies’ room.”

The Texas legislature could vote on the restroom bill as early as mid April, but Republicans have yet to coalesce around the legislation. House Speaker Joe Straus, also a Republican, will guide the direction of the legislation since he has final say on which bills come up for a vote.

Straus’ office did not respond to an interview request for this story, but he previously voiced skepticism about passing a bill similar to the one that caused such an uproar in North Carolina.

“I hear from the business community and leaders back home that are very, very concerned that we might be walking into a situation that would be similar to be what North Carolina has experienced,” Straus said in January. “I’m hearing that we should be very, very cautious about that, and I agree with that.”

Last year, the NBA pulled its All-Star weekend from North Carolina, and the NCAA relocated championship contests to other states because of its restroom policy. 

Houston just hosted the Super Bowl earlier this month, and the NFL is already threatening to bar Texas from hosting future games if the bill becomes law. Last week, the NBA issued a similar warning. The NCAA has yet to say it will punish Texas, but it will have the option to move the Men’s Final Four, scheduled for San Antonio in 2018. 

The Texas Association of Business also has criticized the bill, predicting the state will lose $8.5 billion in revenue from tourism, conventions, sports, and entertainment if it passes. But the group made similar predictions in 2015, when Houston overturned a city ordinance requiring all businesses and public buildings to open their restrooms and private changing facilities based on gender identity. The rule’s overwhelming rejection—61-39 percent—didn’t interfere with Super Bowl plans or other events.

The proposed statewide legislation would allow organizations like the NFL and NCAA to set their own restroom policies at Texas convention centers or arenas but prohibit cities from passing local laws regarding transgender accommodation.

Patrick told me he’s confident the legislation will pass out of the heavily Republican Texas Senate and expects Straus to fall in line when it reaches the House. Patrick also cited misinformation about business opposition, claiming most businesses favor the legislation but worry about fallout from supporting it publicly.

“We didn’t start this fight, the fight came to us and if we do nothing they will win,” Patrick said of the transgender debate. “If it costs me an election, so be it. This is so clear. Sometimes you get into a fight and say ‘OK, I really need to think this through’—this is so clear.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Evan Wilt

Evan is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Washington, D.C.

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  •  Ed Walkwitz's picture
    Ed Walkwitz
    Posted: Mon, 02/20/2017 04:01 pm

    Amen!  Someone is acting on principle first, not politics!  Let's pray for Gov. Dan Patrick to stand firm, and for God to bless him in this move.

  • TxAgEngr
    Posted: Mon, 02/20/2017 04:02 pm

    Joe Straus is worse than a RINO, he a quisling for the Democrats.  The question I have is; how does Big Gay, Inc get the NFL to do its bidding?  What does the NFL have to gain by fighting to allow delusional men unfettered access to the women's toilet?   Houston voters rejected this issue a couple of years ago on a special election and there was no economic harm.  The NFL has lost me over this.  They can take their football and go home.  I thank God for Dan Patrick.  

  • JerryM
    Posted: Mon, 02/20/2017 05:22 pm

    This is the right thing to do.  Be compassionate about the very few who suffer gender dysphoria but stand firmly for the truth.

  • Mark EP
    Posted: Mon, 02/20/2017 07:44 pm

    All the conservative states should pass similar laws more or less simultaneously, thereby rendering the reactionary contempt wide, diluted, and brief. 

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Mon, 02/20/2017 09:17 pm

    This is the wrong way to fight this.  How are they going to enforce it, by placing the National Guard in every restroom to perform biological checks?  And will sexually confused children be forced to wet their pants?  Is that Christian?  God forbid!

    The right way to fight this is to do nothing.  Make no special accommodations for transgender students as mandated by president Obama. Take the financial punishment until Trump rescinds the nonesense. Make Obama the bathroom president.  Let conservatives be the adults in the room.  Declare gender identity null and void on the basis of science, nature and world history.

  • JerryM
    Posted: Tue, 02/21/2017 03:11 am

    This is as much about standing for truth as protecting people's right to privacy.  No one is suggesting that uniformed law enforcement people should police every bathroom.  What if a young girl found herself in the same bathroom as a clearly grown man who declares he is a woman?  Why is it unreasonable, in the current cultural atmosphere, to have a law that clarifies this is unacceptable?

  • Laura W
    Posted: Tue, 02/21/2017 06:26 am

    I would assume it would be enforced in the same way such things usually are now--if someone notices a problem, the authorities are called in to deal with it. I'm not sure "do nothing" is a viable option here. According to the article: "some [Texas] school districts had already changed rules to allow boys and girls to change and shower in the same facilities". I don't think any girl should be forced to use the same changing facilities as a biological male, and vice versa, but that is the practical result of these rules. (Restrooms sometimes offer a little more potential privacy, but still.) If someone is uncomfortable with using the facilities that match their biology, then yes, let's make sure there's a single-stall alternative available to them. I haven't heard of anyone arguing against doing at least that much.

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Tue, 02/21/2017 10:24 am

    By 'do nothing' I mean to ignore the Obama mandate and leave things as they were.  According to the WSJ, Trump is about to rescind the Obama bathroom bill.  That is exactly the right thing to do.  Christ's mission for this world does not involve becoming hallway monitors in Sodom.   

  • Michael Eichler
    Posted: Tue, 02/21/2017 03:28 pm

    @ Xion

    What is bewildering is the fact that a law must be made in the first place. Nonetheless it appears one must be made because so many in today's culture have made the decision to deny a simple fact of biology. A person's sex is not given at birth by a doctor or mid-wife or whoever is there at the delivery (nor is it decided upon later by the individual or anyone else), it is observed and reported by any and all who witness the birth. From that point in time going forward, infants who are observed as being boys at birth are male until the day of their death. This same principle applies to infants who are observed as being girls at birth, they are female until they die.

    The bill (law) being discussed has limitations but its desired outcome is basically two-fold.

    First, it identifies what most people would normally consider to be common sense within the US, that (as a general rule) most women would rather abstain from entering or using a bathroom, changing room, or locker room/shower where individuals born of the opposite sex can enter in or will be present without their consent. Does culture have an impact on this, yes it does, however culture has not progressed to a point where people in the US do not care if they are exposed, again without their consent (example: nude beaches, Playboy magazine, etc are where consent is granted). Denying this just creates tension where tension should not exist.

    Second, it directs/prevents directors/administrators of State government run facilities from spending of taxpayer dollars for bathroom renovations State-wide at all said facilities. Otherwise, we are looking at taxation without representation from the majority. However, it does leave the door open to businesses to do them if they so desire. But said businesses should look to Target as an example of embracing an open policy regarding restrooms and changing rooms.

    As for sexually confused children not being able to relieve themselves being unchristian this is a false argument. Religious belief and being able to relieve oneself of bodily waste products have nothing to do with each other. The relevent question is: who is enabling the children to be sexually confused? Parents? School Administrators and/or Teachers? Television programming?

    If a child needs to relieve him-/herself then the child may go to the bathroom designated for the child's biological sex. If the restroom is not a single room with a lockable door then stalls or a stall are/is expected to exist in both male and female open restrooms.

    Regarding your statement on enforcement, that is a non-argument. The bill/law would establish a limitation across all government facilities State-wide. In the same way Speed limits are established for all roadways State-wide. Speed limits on roadways are established for just and common sense reasons. Enforcement of the Speed Limit is not 100%, in fact it could be argued it is not even enforced at a level of 20% State-wide. However, enforcement does occur when it comes from private citizen reports and/or when law enforcement is present.

    Put simply, to do nothing today with the purposeful confusion regarding transgenderism in the culture would be akin to removing speed limit signs across the state and making the declaration that people should be able to drive at the speed they are comfortable driving. Everyone can celebrate at the new "freedom" they have gained, never mind the casualties it creates until the casuality lands close to home (sister, daughter, mother, wife, etc) and then it is too late.

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Tue, 02/21/2017 04:54 pm

    @Michael.  What would Jesus do?  Does he send his disciples into all the world to be potty police?  Rome was far worse than America, yet he stayed on message.  Don't let the Prince of this World drag us into the toilet.

  • Laura W
    Posted: Tue, 02/21/2017 09:31 pm

    What do you think Jesus would do? Leave those girls at the mercy of any man who wants to call himself a woman? The problem is much bigger than the people who are genuinely confused. And sure, there isn't usually a guard to stop perverts from walking into the ladies room, but normally people would feel free to stop him if they were around when it happened, and there's at least somewhat of a social deterrent. With the new rules, there are no grounds for stopping anyone from entering any sex-segregated facility, since it would be risky to make an issue of it. Any man can claim to be a woman inside if it suits him. (And of course, the reverse is possible as well.) If I was one of the children in those schools, I sure hope that someone would stand up for me.

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Tue, 02/21/2017 11:30 pm

    @Laura - Trump is about to rescind Obama's notorious potty rule.  Then women will be just as protected as before.  Is that enough?  Are you saying more should be done?  But more importantly, how does the public toilet debate further the cause of Christ?  I am not being facetious.  I really want to know.

  • Laura W
    Posted: Thu, 02/23/2017 08:19 am

    Well, it looks ike he did just recind it, which is good news. However, I'm not convinced that things will simply go back to the way they were either. Do those places that have already changed their policies have any plans to reverse them now? With the direction that culture is headed, evidenced by the fact that this is even an issue in the first place, I think it is necessary that there be some explicit legal guidance for something that was once regarded as a simple matter of common sense.

    As far as furthering the cause of Christ, can I ask what you mean by that? As far as I can tell, working to help others only becomes problematic if we lose sight of the larger goal.

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Thu, 02/23/2017 11:44 am

    @ Laura - What I meant by furthering the cause of Christ is just what you said, to not lose sight of the larger goal.  Getting caught up in the cares and affairs of this life is what has sunk the liberal church.   Christians aren't to be morality police in Sodom.  Rather preach the gospel in-season, out of season.  

  • Laura W
    Posted: Fri, 02/24/2017 01:44 am

    You say we're not supposed to be "morality police". So do you mean that we shouldn't speak up about things like murder or theft either? Or that we shouldn't make sure there are laws in place to discourage them? If so, your position would be consistant, but I don't think that would be doing a very good job of loving our neighbors, as we are called to do.

    Based on some of your word choices, I'm getting the impression that you view this issue as a distraction because you see it as something trivial, not because it's not explicit gospel proclaimation. Would that be a fair assessment? If that's the case, I think the women in this video do a much better job than I can of explaining why it matters: https://www.facebook.com/AllianceDefendingFreedom/videos/10155083254308417/

    (Thank you, K Scott for sharing the video link.)

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Fri, 02/24/2017 12:33 pm

    @Laura - I don't view the issue as trivial.  Sin isn't trivial, but what is the answer for sin?  Jesus Christ.  

    Satan is having a ball with this issue because Christians are so easily distracted by the kingdom of this world.  Instead of just telling the truth about the real issue, i.e. that Gender Identity is false, Christians are now getting embroiled in bathroom policies.  What fun Lucifer is having!  It is the same for every other lie in this world.  Instead of staying on point, Christians get sidetracked on so many political side issues and eventually lose anyway.

    Nearly every major political hot button issue is based on a lie.  Gender identity is a lie.   Biological race is a lie.  Evolution is a lie.  Homosexuality is a behavior, not a kind of person.  Islam is not the religion of peace.  Nearly everything this culture tells us is a lie.  It is all coming from the Father of Lies, who has figured out how to keep Christians running in circles.  I am calling on Christians to simply tell the truth about the real issue and to not be distracted by side issues.

  • Michael Eichler
    Posted: Thu, 02/23/2017 10:42 am

    @ Xion - I echo Laura W's question as to what you think Jesus would do. You put the question to me and have suddenly thrust Christ into the discussion. Obviously you think that He has something to say or has already said on this topic, please enlighten me as to what would be said or has been said.

    The position I advocated is a position as to right vs wrong in a natural context. A context that was created by God and was very good. But we cannot limit ourselves to look at the world just through the lens of Genesis 2 because Genesis 3 follows and this is the lens by which we are to view the world and must live under until either Christ returns or we ourselves die.

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Fri, 02/24/2017 11:54 am

    @Michael - What did Jesus do?  The only time Jesus or his disciples got involved with Rome was when they were arrested and had no other choice.  Otherwise Rome was inconsequential to Christ's mission. They said to obey the laws and pay your taxes and pray for those in authority.  The world is Satan''s kingdom and there is nothing he loves more than having Christians chasing rabbit trails like latrine legislation.  Churches that become politically active have lost sight of their mission for the Lord of Lord and King of Kings.

  • Laura W
    Posted: Sat, 02/25/2017 03:13 am

    @Xion - Maybe they never challenged Rome directly, but that doesn't mean they never took action against the evil around them, either. What about when Jesus made a whip and cleared out the people who were abusing God's house? He didn't just speak truth then. (And no, in case you were wondering, I'm not advocating we start going around whipping people--just that sometimes we need to use more than words when we encounter evil and evildoers.)

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Sun, 02/26/2017 01:55 am

    @Laura - Jesus took a whip to religious leaders in the temple.  His zeal was for the things of God.  He never got angry at a Roman.  I am not saying we shouldn't take action or be silent.  I am saying that the church should stay on point and not get distracted by side issues.  The issue here is that LGBT and gender identity is all based on lies.  Let us boldly stand for the truth.  

    When someone tells me they are gay, I say, "No you aren't".  There are only two kinds of people: male and female.  There is no new kind of person called a homosexual.  According to Romans 1, what you have is a person who let his sexual appetites get out of control.  There is no such thing as a transsexual.  What you have is a confused person who may have had harmful, unnecessary surgery.  People don’t have affairs, they commit adultery.  People don’t fool around, they commit fornication.  And so on ...

    One thing Jesus never did was beat around the bush.  He was full of grace and truth.  He fed people harsh reality with a teaspoon of sugar.  He is our example.   The church seems to have given up on challenging the culture with the hard truth.  It is far easier to just weigh in on side issues and vote in obscurity about things that matter little.  Let us have the zeal for the truth that Christ had about things that matter.


  • Laura W
    Posted: Mon, 02/27/2017 01:19 am

    @Xion - I'm not sure this is really a productive discussion at this point. I'm still not clear on what your reasoning is for your point of view, other than that Jesus didn't do anything quite like it. But there are a whole lot of things that Jesus never did that are quite legitimate ways to honor God--writing a computer program, for example, or crossing the ocean to proclaim the truth of God in another land. Do you have another reason why you think Christians shouldn't be engaged in giving legal protections to vulnerable groups in society? (Or am I misrepresenting your view?)

    As for your response to people who identify as gay, or whatever, I suppose there might be times where it's appropriate to be as blunt as possible, but isn't it normally more loving to use a bit of tact? I don't mean avoid the issue, but in my experience, starting a conversation with "you're wrong" doesn't usually get very far, and it often leaves the other person feeling hurt and unloved. (Though sometimes it is necessary to expose lies for the benefit of onlookers.) For example, once a young boy that I know whispered to me that he's actually a little girl. Now I could have just told him that no he's not, and don't be silly, but I would probably have hurt him. He was trusting me here. So I asked him if he knew that God made everything, and he nodded yes, and smiled. Then I told him that God made him just exactly how he wanted him to be--the way he looks, his interests and abilities, and everything else about him. And I told him that when God made him, he made him a boy, because that was exactly who he wanted him to be. My friend left that conversation with a big smile on his face and, I hope, a much firmer grasp on truth in his heart. That's what I mean by tact.

  • Steve in Dallas
    Posted: Sun, 02/26/2017 05:35 pm

    Why are entities like the NFL, NBA, and NCAA trying to short-circuit democratic processes in conservative states?  Who gave them a voice?  Does their statement reflect the beliefs of 100% of their own employeess?  I doubt it.  So a few top ranking officials in a company can make decisions to use their economic weight to bully states on political matters concerning highly controversial sexual ethics issues?  I don't get why companies can do this.  I am a Texan and get a voice in Texas politics.  The NFL is not a person and has no vote anywhere.  The NFL (and other companies) should remain focused on promoting/selling football (or whatever their product is) and stay neutral in the polical arena.