Democrats Vow to Fight, Kill Dan Patrick’s Bathroom Bill

Pro-LGBT Houston Lawmakers Discuss Lieutenant Governor's Anti-Transgender Proposal

Pro-LGBT Houston Lawmakers Discuss Lieutenant Governor's Anti-Transgender Proposal

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick walks past pro-LGBT protesters Tuesday inside the Fort Worth ISD Administration Building. He hosted a press conference where he spoke against the district’s new guidelines protecting transgender students, which he said could be used as a springboard to further advance his conservative "school choice" plan.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick walks past pro-LGBT protesters before speaking against the Fort Worth school district’s nondiscrimination policy for transgender students in May.  John Wright

One Democratic state lawmaker pledged Wednesday to “fight like hell” against Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s anti-transgender bathroom bill, while another predicted the measure “[isn’t] going anywhere.”

Senator Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, called it “tragic” that Patrick — who’s made the bill one of his top priorities for the 2017 session — is “focused on bathrooms instead of classrooms.”

During a panel discussion hosted by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, Garcia suggested that lawmakers should concentrate on issues like education funding and the state’s ongoing child welfare crisis.

“It’s a huge distraction, but it is nothing but a good political hot-button issue for the Republican Party’s primary base,” Garcia said. “All I can say is we’re going to fight like hell.”

Representative Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, who also appeared on the panel, noted that the business community is “up in arms” about Patrick’s proposal.

Last week, the Texas Association of Business released a study — which the Observer first reported in November — showing that if anti-LGBT legislation passes next year, the state’s economy could lose up to $8.5 billion and 185,000 jobs.

Thompson predicted that even if Patrick’s bathroom bill clears the Senate, the House will kill it because members are “more rational and recognize the games that are being played.”

“I don’t think it’s going anywhere,” Thompson said. “I think we’re going to be victorious.”

But Thompson also warned that Patrick may try to use the bathroom bill “to manipulate people” and “hold them hostage” in support of his other initiatives, such as school vouchers. Patrick declared in May that the Fort Worth school district’s decision to allow trans students to use restrooms based on their gender identity was “the biggest promotion for something I feel strongly about, and that’s school choice.”

“We just can’t let them use that to get other things that would be equally detrimental,” Thompson said. “That is the key.”

Representative Sarah Davis, R-Houston, the third legislator on Wednesday’s panel, encouraged people to contact their lawmakers about Patrick’s proposal and said it shouldn’t be viewed as a partisan issue.

Davis, the first Republican in the Legislature to back same-sex marriage, noted that a bathroom bill isn’t among House Speaker Joe Straus’ priorities. She also pointed to Governor Greg Abbott’s statement this week that he needs more information before deciding whether to support it.  

“I want to caution you to not [say], ‘Every Republican is a bigot and is going to support this legislation,’ because that’s just not true,” Davis said.

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John Wright is a freelance journalist based in Austin. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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