Texas GOP reaches deal on ‘bathroom bill’

Texas GOP reaches deal on ‘bathroom bill’
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Texas state legislators reached a compromise late Sunday on a controversial measure to bar transgender people from using the bathrooms of their choice after months of pressure from business and civil rights groups aimed at killing the bill.

The bill, which cleared a key procedural hurdle in the state House on Sunday, would bar transgender students from bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity, unless other children are not present. Students would be required to use single-stall bathrooms instead.

Civil rights groups criticized the measure, which they say is likely to lead to discrimination and bullying against transgender students.

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“Transgender youth deserve the same dignity and respect as their peers, and this craven attempt to use children as a pawn for cheap political points is disturbing and unconscionable,” said JoDee Winterhof, a senior vice president at the Human Rights Campaign.

A stricter measure, more in line with North Carolina’s House Bill 2, passed the more conservative state Senate earlier this year. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), who sponsored the Senate version, had been at loggerheads with state House Speaker Joe Straus (R), who said the measure was unnecessary.

Patrick had threatened to hold up other legislation, including the state budget, if the House did not act on the bill.

Business groups and sports leagues both voiced concern about the Senate’s version of the bill when it passed in March. The Texas Association of Business estimated the state could lose $8.5 billion in economic activity if the bill passed, though those numbers have been questioned by fact-checking organizations.

Major Dallas-based companies like American Airlines and Dell came out publicly against the transgender bathroom bill. The NFL said it would reconsider hosting future Super Bowls in Texas if the bill passed, though the league does not have any Super Bowls planned after February’s game in Houston.

The spotlight is now likely to fall on the NCAA, which is scheduled to host the Final Four in San Antonio next year. The NCAA pulled several events out of North Carolina after its version of the transgender bathroom bill passed last year.

The compromise easily cleared Sunday’s procedural hurdle on a virtually party-line vote. It requires a final vote in the state House, then a vote in the state Senate before it heads to Gov. Greg Abbott (R) for a signature. The bill is likely to clear those hurdles by Friday, when this year’s Texas legislative session is scheduled to come to an end.