The Texas state senate voted July 25 to advance a controversial “bathroom bill” backed by social conservative groups including the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
Cindy Asmussen, adviser to the Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated state convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee, testified in support of Senate Bill 3, sponsored by state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), during an 11-hour hearing of the Senate Committee on State Affairs on Friday, July 21.
“The attempts by some cities to force businesses and some school districts to force schools to open their multi-use restrooms and changing facilities to the opposite sex — such as in Fort Worth, Dripping Springs, Houston, Plano, San Antonio, Dallas and Mesquite — has led us to the need for a statewide standard,” said Asmussen, who works for the convention part time.
The bill requiring transgender people to use public bathrooms that match the gender listed on their birth certificates is one of 20 items being pushed by Gov. Greg Abbott during a 30-day special session after a similar measure failed to get enough support in the regular 2017 Texas Legislative Session.
Supporters describe the proposed law as a “privacy bill” intended to protect the safety of vulnerable women and children. Opponents, such as business owners and law enforcement officials, say it is unnecessary, discriminatory and harmful.
Asmussen said the legislation is needed because of people like 30-year-old Hubert Justin Powell, who last fall was reportedly caught in the act of attempting to rape an 8-year-old girl in a restroom stall at a public library in Austin.
“Even though we already have laws that deal with sexual crimes, the issue here is no one questioned the fact that this man was entering a women’s restroom,” Asmussen said. “We cannot become desensitized to this when we know that perpetrators will take advantage of any opportunity to utilize all manipulative means of deception to pursue their desired end by initiating contact, engaging or gaining access to their victims, and we must set the standard for public safety.”
On Tuesday the Texas senate approved final passage of SB 3, also known as Texas Privacy Act, after an eight-hour debate by a vote of 21-10. It now goes to the Texas House of Representatives for consideration.
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ civil-rights organization in the country, called the bill “blatantly discriminatory” and pledged to continue to oppose it in the House.
“The Texas Senate and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appear to be fine with establishing Texas as the next North Carolina,” said JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president of policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign.
In 2016 North Carolina hastily passed a bill overturning a Charlotte ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. A little over a year later legislators repealed parts of the bill, saying it had tarnished the state’s reputation and hurt the economy.
In 2014 The Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution opposing “cultural efforts to validate claims to transgender identity” and efforts by government to validate the lifestyle “as morally praiseworthy.”
The Alliance of Baptists, in contrast, meeting this spring in North Carolina, approved a consensus statement saying in part, “We stand for the inclusion of transgender persons in our churches and communities and against a lack of understanding that targets transgender persons by stereotyping.”