Texas twin to HB2 in hibernation — for now

Legislative session ended without action; Lt. Gov. vows revival

North Carolina’s House Bill 2 may have been repealed in name, but its legacy lives on in imitation legislation pushed by conservative lawmakers in other states. The Texan version of the infamous “bathroom bill” was left unheard when the state’s House of Representatives ended its special session — but Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick hasn’t given up the issue.

“You know why it’s going to be back next session? Because the people will demand it,” Patrick told reporters after the legislative session concluded. “The issue is not going to go away.”

Despite Patrick’s claims about the people’s demands, even Republican leaders in the Texas legislature have expressed opposition to perpetuating efforts to dictate LGBTQ freedoms. Like HB2, the Texas bill requires public bathrooms and facilities to be accessed according to gender assigned at birth and nullifies all local anti-discrimination laws. It’s a repetition not lost on Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, a moderate Republican who spoke against the measure.

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“Why would Texas, after seeing the example in North Carolina, want to walk headfirst into a giant cactus? I think it’s a good question and I hope that we don’t go there,” Straus said, alluding to a North Carolina newspaper editorial.

Supporters of the Texas bill use the same line of defense as HB2 supporters did, claiming the measure would protect women and children from bathroom assault. Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller condemns this argument as “telling lies to justify passing laws that discriminate against people simply because of who they are.”

“This legislation has never been about protecting women in public restrooms. That’s why organizations that advocate for victims of sexual assault have strongly opposed it,” Miller told The Austin American-Statesman. “We’re here to say Texans across the state won’t rest until the final gavel — and beyond that, we won’t rest until our leaders recognize that discrimination is reprehensible.”

LGBTQ North Carolinians know all too well just how such debates impact the everyday lives of queer citizens. One transgender Texan named Stephanie Martinez spoke out about the “mob mentality” that the bill has created, after she suffered an assault in Austin, Texas for being transgender.

“It doesn’t solve any problems. It will simply add to the danger the transgender community experiences on a daily basis,” Martinez said.

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In another parallel to North Carolina’s HB2 debacle, corporate opposition to the discriminatory legislation has been shouted from the rooftops. GSD&M, an advertising agency headquartered in Austin, ran a social media campaign leading up to the recent legislative session meant to decide the issue.

The campaign, “Lifestyle Products for a Bathroom Bill World,” promoted everyday items like backpacks in traditionally-gendered colors with a prominent print of the purchaser’s birth certificate stitched onto the front. A curious click brings web surfers to a page designed to help voters contact their representatives.

The message is clear: if you don’t want to live in a world where a gender ID is required to pee, take action against it.

Opposition to the Texas measure didn’t stop it from being passed in the state Senate, but the bill died upon arrival in the House. Left up to Lt. Gov. Patrick and his cronies, the law could rise again like Freddy Krueger — but with the continued efforts of LGBTQ people and allies, GSD&M CEO Duff Stewart says that the battle will not be lost.

“Taxpayer dollars should be spent solving the real problems that face our state, from infrastructure to education, child protective services and more,” Stewart said in a statement. “We have an imperative to support basic human rights and legislation that limits the freedoms of our transgender community is nothing more than a solution in search of a problem…I’m not worried about the people who love. I’m worried about the people who hate.”

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