Legislation was filed Thursday to regulate who can use a restroom in Texas. SB-6 is called the Texas Privacy Act, but opponents say the bill is really an attack on transgender children.
The filing of Senate Bill 6 officially puts Texas in the middle of the debate regarding how far the government should go regulating access to restrooms.
"It's the right thing to do, I know it, Texas know it,” said Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.
Patrick and State Senator Lois Kolkhorst, who is sponsoring SB 6, said the legislation is not intended to cause controversy but to end it.
"You can mark today as the day that Texas is drawing a line in the sand, and saying no, the privacy and safety of Texans is our first priority ... not political correctness,” said Patrick.
If SB 6 becomes state law, the use of a restroom would be determined by a person's gender as listed on their birth certificate. The law would only apply to government buildings and public schools. Private business owners would be allowed to set their own bathroom policy.
"Are we going to have bathroom police, no. What this is, it allows the individual who feels uncomfortable to report that, and in our schools if they are violating this, the Attorney General has some measures, they can penalize the school districts or cites, again about personal privacy for all people,” said Senator Kolkhorst Brenham ( R ).
Schools administrators will be allowed to provide alternative facilities for transgender students. The bill provides exemptions for emergencies and adults taking their kids to the bathroom. It also enhances penalties for crimes committed in a bathroom against any one regardless of their sex or gender identity.
Back in May, Patrick gave a clear signal he would push state Senators for legislation to regulate bathroom use. It came after the Obama Administration issued an advisory to school districts to have accessibility policies that do not discriminate against transgender children.
A group outside of the Senate Chamber protested the unveiling of SB6. It was also quickly condemned by Chuck Smith with Equality Texas.
"If we are seriously interested in protecting people and trying to stop predatory behavior, then the target of the legislation should be predators, the target of the legislation should not be transgender people because transgender people are more likely to be the victims of crime not the perpetrators of it,” said Smith.
A study released by the Texas Association of Business warns of an economic backlash if any legislation, considered to be discriminatory, is passed this session. The potential loss of $8.5 billion and 185,000 jobs are major talking points in material produced by Equality Texas.
"We can expect to see economic fallout from entertainers, from sporting organizations, from sporting conferences,” said Smith.
Patrick does not believe the legislation will come at any cost - although he admits it may be a hard sell. On the other side of the dome, House Speaker Joe Straus has indicated regulating restrooms will not be a top priority.