Texas unveils ‘bathroom bill’ that critics say targets LGBT rights

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By Jon Herskovitz | AUSTIN, Texas

AUSTIN, Texas Jan 5 A Texas Republican state
senator introduced legislation on Thursday to limit public
restroom access for transgender people, despite warnings from a
business group that the measure would hurt the Texas economy
because it was discriminatory.

The “Texas Privacy Act” has been marked as a top legislative
priority for Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, a Republican and conservative Christian who guides the legislative agenda in the
Republican-controlled state Senate. He said the measure
protected the privacy and safety of Texans.

“It is the right thing to do,” Patrick told a news
conference along with its sponsor, Lois Kolkhorst. The event was
punctuated by the howls of protesters nearby in the Capitol
building chanting: “Shame, shame, shame.”

Similar bills have been filed for several other state
legislatures this year that socially conservative backers say
offer common-sense protections against sexual predators. Critics
say the laws are designed to infringe on the civil rights of
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

A major industry group, the Texas Association of Business,
said a study it helped conduct showed such legislation in Texas
could result in economic losses ranging from $964 million to
$8.5 billion for the state.

A law enacted by North Carolina in March 2016 to restrict
bathroom access for transgender people – the first such state
measure – prompted a federal civil rights lawsuit and has been
blamed for hundreds of millions of dollars in economic losses
and the relocation of major sporting events from the state.

Kolkhorst said the Texas bill would prohibit any local
government from adopting an ordinance that prevents a business
from making its own policy on access to places such as bathrooms
and locker rooms.

Local governments are also forbidden from considering those
policies when awarding a contract, she said.

Chick Smith, chief executive of LGBT rights group Equality
Texas, said the legislation appeared to be unenforceable and
targeted a marginalized group of people.

“If this legislature is interested in dealing with predatory
behavior, then the target of this legislation needs to be sexual
predators. Transgender people are not the predators. Transgender
people are more likely to be the victims,” he said in an
interview.

At the end of last year, four states had legislation
limiting transgender bathroom rights that were set to be on the
agenda when lawmakers convened in 2017.

Similar legislation was filed this week in Virginia and
Kentucky.



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