Texas state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R) saw the debate over Senate Bill 6, the so-called bathroom bill that would have required people to use the bathroom or locker room that matched their birth genders as the “women’s rights issue of our time.”
It’s a matter that has not been settled, at least not to her satisfaction.
Although it was listed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) as the thirteenth of his top 20 priorities for an August special session and was approved by the Texas Senate, the bathroom bill died in the House.
Kolkhorst, the legislation’s author, said the Texas Privacy Act, as it was officially known, was never aimed at discriminating against transgendered people.
“I really went into this about protecting women and children in those intimate spaces from would-be sexual predators,” Kolkhorst told CBN News. “I think that the mainstream media has turned it into something else.”
Chuck Smith, the CEO of Equality Texas, declared victory after the bathroom bill failed.
“We were up against two of the most powerful people in Texas state government, dictating to a Republican-controlled Legislature that anti-transgender bathroom bill legislation must pass,” Smith said. “But we were not deterred.”
Equality Texas built a coalition against the bathroom bill that included not only LGBTQ rights groups but also, as PJM reported, some of the state’s most important business executives.
The bathroom bill also split the Texas GOP.
Republican Rep. Byron Cook, chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, refused to hold a hearing on the bathroom bill during August’s special session.
“For me, having the business community weighing in as strongly as they did to say this would have a chilling effect on the business climate and opportunity in this state is a huge factor,” Cook told the New York Times.
Gov. Abbott laid the blame for the bill’s defeat squarely on the shoulders of House Speaker Joe Straus (R).
“The speaker made very clear that he opposed this bill and he would never allow a vote to be taken on it,” Abbott told the Texas Tribune. “He told me that in the regular session. And he told me during the regular session that if this came up during the special session, he would not allow a vote on it, and there’s no evidence whatsoever that he’s going to change his mind on it, and that’s why elections matter.”
Straus never left any doubt in any Texans’ minds where he stood in the bathroom bill debate.
“I believe that most of the members of the House are not looking to harm the Texas economy,” Straus told The Hill in July. “I’m encouraged by the stronger support for keeping Texas a pro-business, job-creating state from the business community.”
Kolkhorst told the Dallas Morning News she was “disappointed” by the Texas Privacy Act’s defeat. She saw the debate as one that pitted “daughters before dollars,’” a line that became the hashtag motto of her supporters.
“In our most intimate spaces, there should be some lines drawn,” she said.
Kolkhorst also said it was time to “take a few breaths and go home. It’s been a long year.”
However, Gov. Abbott may not be willing to let the bathroom bill be flushed away. He could bring the proposal up again in the 2019 legislative session or even call another special session of the legislature, this year or next.
“All options are always on the table,” Abbott said.
Republican Rep. Ron Simmons said while this version of the bathroom bill might be dead, he doesn’t feel the issue of whether transgendered people should be allowed to use the facilities of their choice will be resolved until a statewide policy is enacted in Texas.
“You know why it’s going to be back next session? Because the people will demand it,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) told reporters. “The issue is not going to go away.”
The Dallas Morning News reported the Privacy Act would likely re-emerge as a conservative litmus test during the 2018 GOP primary elections.
“If Joe Straus and Byron Cook would have let the House vote we would also have a privacy bill being sent to the governor, as well,” said Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values Action, a group that supported the Privacy Act.
“There is unfinished business,” Saenz added, “and the voters will soon have the final word.”