The battle over transgender bathroom policy essentially died in North Carolina after the Trump administration dialed back previous Title IX language imposed under Barack Obama, but now the fight is back on in the Lone Star State. (I’ll get to the reason why this is a good thing and how that distinction matters below.) The Texas House of Representatives pushed through an amendment this past week which is far less sweeping than their earlier effort to cover all public bathrooms, instead restricting this set of instructions to public schools. (Los Angeles Times)
A transgender “bathroom bill” reminiscent of one in North Carolina that caused a national uproar now appears to be on a fast-track to becoming law in Texas — though it may only apply to public schools.
A broader proposal mandating that virtually all transgender people in the country’s second-largest state use public restrooms according to the gender on their birth certificates sailed through the Texas Senate months ago. A similar measure had stalled in the House, but supporters late Sunday night used an amendment to tack bathroom limits onto a separate and otherwise unrelated bill covering school emergency operation plans for things like natural disasters.
Republican Rep. Chris Paddie wrote the hotly-debated language, saying it had “absolutely no intent” to discriminate. Under it, transgender students at public and charter schools would not be permitted to use the bathroom of their choice but could be directed to separate, single-occupancy restrooms.
The usual list of suspects were up in arms over this immediately, with the Washington Post describing it as part of “Discrimination Sunday.” Texas Democrats put on quite a show, with some of the female legislators briefly invading the men’s room and deceptively attempting to describe the measure as somehow being similar to racially segregated bathrooms during the Jim Crow era. That’s an obvious red herring since it isn’t in any way a parallel to this situation, but I suppose it makes for some good headlines.
As we’ve discussed here for a couple of years now, the Texas bill falls back on a pattern which seems to be the most fair solution to something which never should have been an issue in the first place. Any “transgender children” attending the schools will be given the option of using a separate, single person facility available to either gender. This offers privacy while not forcing the schools into a situation where boys are showing up in the girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms and showers.
The reason this case may prove useful in the larger debate over this subject is that it’s not dependent on anything to do with Title IX. In the previous cases, schools were pushing back against rules forcing such mixing of the genders imposed by the Obama administration on pain of losing their federal funding. Thus, when that rule was withdrawn the cases collapsed and the Supreme Court was able to duck out of making a decision. The Texas law (which will no doubt be immediately challenged) was undertaken by the state independent of any Title IX considerations. Since we’re eventually going to need the Supreme Court to rule as to whether or not science has any place in questions of gender as well as whether or not the law in this country still protects privacy, perhaps the Texas case can be the one that finally makes it all the way to the halls of SCOTUS and forces some answers out of them.