Texas House Considers Anti-Transgender Bill That Threatens Religious Freedom

Excerpted from AU's Wall of Separation blog:

The Texas legislature is back in a special session called by Governor Greg Abbott (R) and the Senate has wasted no time passing troubling measures, including an anti-transgender bathroom ban. Now the action moves to the Texas House of Representatives. Although the House voted down similar bills in the regular session and the Speaker has promised to block it, the fight is far from over for this legislation.

The Senate approved SB 3, a bill that discriminates against transgender people by prohibiting them from using public bathrooms that align with their gender identity. It has been likened to North Carolina’s notorious HB 2, which faced a national backlash. The Texas House will consider a similar bill.

Public opposition to these bills is widespread: the Texas Association of Business is spending $1 million in advertising to fight them; major corporations like American Airlines, Apple and AT&T have been vocal in their opposition; oil, gas and chemical giants including BP America, Chevron North America E&P, Dow Chemical Co., Exxon Mobil Global Services and Halliburton oppose the legislation; and faith leaders, houses of worship and a religious denomination citing the “emotional and spiritual damage that discrimination does to transgender people” are opposed.

Many who support the legislation are pushing false, harmful and even dangerous rhetoric about transgender people. We wrote to dispel the myth that these bills are necessary for or even support religious freedom. Religious freedom is a fundamental American value. It guarantees us all the right to believe, or not, as we see fit. It also ensures people can practice their faith, so long as they do not harm or discriminate against others. Using the restroom is a basic human need we all share and denying transgender people access to the bathroom harms and discriminates against them.

House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) so far has withstood political pressure from his own party to oppose the anti-transgender bill; he has likened the governor’s special session agenda to “manure.”

Straus isn’t the only House Republican standing in the governor’s way. For instance, Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) has called the anti-transgender bill unnecessary and has said the voucher proposal “would cripple funding for our rural public school districts.” He added: “As the special session continues to unfold, I am disappointed that our great state is continuing to waste so much time over the ‘bathroom debate.’ Especially since all the attention on this issue is smoke-screening a very serious threat facing rural Texas families, rural public schools, and even the economic survival of our state’s rural communities.” 

Americans United will closely monitor developments in Texas and will continue to oppose any attempt to discriminate in the name of religion. You can stay informed about these issues and much more by signing up for our emails.