A discriminatory Texas bill requiring transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender printed on their birth certificate may die in committee, despite Gov. Greg Abbott pressuring pastors to hawk it at the last minute.
The bill could still survive as an amendment to other legislation, but the Texas Tribune explains that it’s now failed to clear two separate legislative hurdles. After the Texas Senate passed the bill in March, the House tried to come up with an alternative. The Senate bill, SB6, has been dead on arrival in the house as Speaker Joe Straus called it “manufactured and unnecessary” and never referred it to a committee.
The power struggle between Straus and Patrick—and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is aggressively pushing the bathroom bill—is one of the most important and bizarre in the country. While both are Republicans, Texas journalist (and occasional Fusion writer) Chris Hooks explains that Straus is far more moderate and uses his position to fight Patrick, sometimes; the animosity runs deep.
Patrick is frustrated with the House’s antipathy to his priorities, especially his school vouchers proposal, “sanctuary cities” legislation and the bathroom bill. It’s time, Patrick said, for Straus to take up the lieutenant governor’s agenda. It’s what conservatives in the House want, and Straus should listen to them. Straus is “out of touch with the voters,” and “if they start killing these bills, I may say something,” Patrick said.
Last session, Patrick tweaked Straus plenty. He was fond of repeatedly and pointedly touting the many fine Christians that were running state government. (Straus is Jewish, a major source of opposition to him from Christian conservatives.)
Republicans in the Texas House tried to come up with a proposal that was more amenable to Straus and Democrats—but, of course, still harmful to trans people. Rep. Ron Simmons wrote HB2899, which declared that any “political subdivision” may not “protect a class of persons from discrimination.” That would have gutted years of progressive regulations that large Texas cities had enacted. With the Texas legislative calendar winding down, and the legislature only meeting every other year, those protections may be safe until 2019.
Again, though, it may zombify as an amendment to unrelated legislation. And with or without it, the 85th Texas legislature does not lack for all-out assaults on the vulnerable. Late last night on Facebook Live, Abbott signed a bill banning sanctuary cities. And tomorrow, legislators will consider a bill that allows adoption agencies to bar Jewish, Muslim, gay, or interfaith couples from adopting.
Transgender advocates may have been successful in defeating this bill. But Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick’s Texas requires an exhausting amount of fighting back.