Photo: Tom Reel, Staff / San Antonio Express-News
AUSTIN — Hundreds of people are expected to testify today at the Texas Capitol during a third hearing on a “bathroom bill” being advanced in the special legislative session, the latest version of a controversial proposal to limit public restroom access for transgender Texans.
Registration for public testimony at the Senate State Affairs committee hearing opened at 8 a.m., an hour before the hearing was set to begin, and a long line of people snaked across the Capitol extension from the same hearing room where many of them had registered their opposition to Senate Bill 6 during the regular session. That bill kicked off a months-long firestorm of criticism from transgender advocates, local officials, businesses and school administrators across the state.
Registration for public testimony will remain open until noon today. The committee is taking up two bills filed earlier this week by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, who authored SB 6 with the support of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. With largely identical text, Senate Bill 3 and Senate Bill 91 would designate restroom, shower and changing room access in public spaces, including public and charter schools, based on the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate.
The measures would also prevent local entities like school districts from adopting policies prohibiting discrimination against transgender people who want to use the bathrooms aligned with their gender identity or participate in athletics.
Today’s hearing is the third time lawmakers were to hear testimony on bathroom-related legislation this year. Two held during the regular session featured hours of emotional public outpouring and lasted until around 5 a.m. the next morning.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg planned to testify agains the bills today, a spokesman said. Earlier this week, the San Antonio Chamber of Commer and 15 San Antonio school superintendents penned a letter to House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, arguing that school districts are already equipped to handle transgender students’ access to restrooms. They were joined by the leaders of businesses including IBM who traveled to Austin to lobby against the legislation.
In the House, Rep. Ron Simmons has filed a pair of special session bills that would prevent school districts and cities from passing policies protecting transgender individuals from discrimination in bathrooms.
Watch a livestream of the hearing.