Equity & Diversity

Texas ‘Bathroom Bill’ Dies as Special Session Ends

By Evie Blad — August 16, 2017 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A proposed Texas bill that would have restricted restroom access for transgender people in many public buildings, including public schools, died Tuesday night after the state’s house failed to take action on the measure during a special session.

The bill, previously approved by the senate and championed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, would have restricted access to restrooms and locker rooms in buildings operated by local governments—including school districts—based on the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate or state-issued ID. It also included proposed restrictions for local anti-discrimination ordinances.

Supporters of the measure said it was important to protect the privacy rights and safety of children and girls. Opponents, including large district superintendents, business, and tourism groups, said it would unfairly discriminate against transgender people and put them at risk for harm.

Around the country, transgender students who want their schools to recognize their gender identities face a confusing legal landscape.

Texas is one of a handful of states to have considered bills mandating restrictions on things like facilities access. Only one, North Carolina, has enacted such a law. On the other side of the issue, more than a dozen states have non-discrimination laws that set requirements for how schools should recognize gender identity. They include stipulations that schools acknowledge transgender students’ gender identity in issues such as access to facilities like restrooms and locker rooms.

Things at the federal level are less clear. The Obama administration previously asserted that Title IX, the federal gender non-discrimination law, guarantees the rights of transgender students to access bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity, even if it differs from their sex at birth. But the administration of President Donald Trump lifted that guidance shortly after he took office, bringing an end to a multi-state lawsuit led by Texas that said the federal guidance threatened the privacy rights of students.

That means schools that aren’t covered by state-level protections for transgender students are on their own in interpreting federal law. But advocates for transgender students insist that their rights are still covered by Title IX, and they have committed to advancing that argument in court.

Abbott told Texas media he is considering calling another special session to ask the legislature to once again consider the bill and some of his other legislative priorities.

Photo: Protesters gather on the steps of the Texas Capitol in Austin last week while State lawmakers began a special legislative session called by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. LGBT activists bitterly oppose “bathroom bill” proposals. --Eric Gay/AP

Further reading about transgender students:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.