Siobhan Cooke of Nacogdoches, Texas, and Mark Jiminez of Dallas were among protesters rallying against the so-called bathroom bill during the special session. Ashley Landis TNS
Siobhan Cooke of Nacogdoches, Texas, and Mark Jiminez of Dallas were among protesters rallying against the so-called bathroom bill during the special session. Ashley Landis TNS

State Politics

Who’s that next to my child in the bathroom?

By Anna M. Tinsley

atinsley@star-telegram.com

July 26, 2017 01:00 PM

UPDATED July 30, 2017 06:54 PM

Now that the Texas Senate has passed its version of the hot-button “bathroom bill,” one question looms above all others:

Who’s that next to me — or my child — in the bathroom?

The legislation being bandied about this special session in Austin aims to decide where transgender Texans may use the restroom.

A large group, including pro-family, religious and conservative leaders, support the not-in-my-bathroom bill, while many law enforcement officers, tourism officials and business leaders advocate against it.

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Republican Gov. Greg Abbott maintains that this “privacy protection legislation” is needed.

The House and Senate could not agree on a plan during the regular session and Abbott put it at the top of his to-do list for the special session, which began last week.

Last week, the Senate passed its version of a bill that regulates restrooms in government buildings and public schools, requiring Texans to use the facility that matches the gender on their birth certificates or Texas ID.

Two bills filed in the House have been sent to a committee but have yet to see public hearings scheduled.

If you’re wondering what the law is now, or what it might be under proposals in the Legislature, maybe this will help.

Where can a transgender person go to the bathroom in a city of Fort Worth building?

Now: Any bathroom that person wants. People can use the restroom facility of their choice in Fort Worth buildings and a city spokeswoman said “this has never been an issue.”

House bill: A plan in committee would require that person to go to the restroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate.

Senate bill: This measure would require that person to go to the restroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate or state-issued identification.

Where can a transgender student go to the bathroom at a Fort Worth public school?

Now: A transgender student and his or her parents need to contact school administrators or guidance counselors and meet to discuss their child’s needs. They develop a plan based on that student’s need for “restrooms, locker rooms or changing facilities,” according to the Fort Worth school district transgender student safety guideline. Officials will determine the best options for those students on “a case-by-case basis.”

House bill: A second plan filed would require that person to go to the restroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate.

Senate bill: Same as above.

Where can a transgender person go to the bathroom at a private business such as a restaurant?

Now: Fort Worth’s anti-discrimination ordinance allows private businesses to determine the rules in their restaurants and facilities. Many provide unisex restrooms, which fit any gender. It’s up to the patron to decide which facility to visit. Any business that wants to weigh in on the issue will do so, as the BBQ on the Brazos restaurant in Cresson did last year when its owner put a sign on the restroom door that read: “No men allowed in the women’s bathroom please.”

House bill: No change. The bills proposed impact public facilities.

Senate bill: No change. The bill impacts public facilities.

What happened during the regular session?

State lawmakers spent 140 days during the regular session debating the bathroom issue and couldn’t agree on a plan.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
Eric Gay AP

The House passed a measure requiring public schools to provide alternate restrooms for transgender youths who prefer to use facilities that match their gender identity. The Senate essentially required people using restrooms in publicly owned buildings, not just schools, to use the restroom that matches their “biological sex.”

Both bills died.

Abbott — who called on lawmakers to again tackle the issue during this session — is hoping lawmakers can do this time in one month what they couldn’t do in more than four months previously.

He recently declared that the “privacy protection legislation is generating growing support across Texas.”

There are fewer than three weeks remaining in the special session.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

Euless Trinity wrestler Mack Beggs calls out Texas lawmakers for 'bathroom bill'

He told the Star-Telegram earlier this year he doesn't wrestle to carry the transgender torch, but with Texas legislators in a special session, he stepped out with something to say. Courtesy Athlete Ally

Athlete Ally Athlete Ally