An effort to pass a “bathroom bill” in Texas died on Tuesday, seemingly shutting the window for the foreseeable future on legislation that critics say discriminates against transgender people.
However, the fight to regulate bathrooms is far from over in the Lone Star State, according to people on both sides of the debate.
The bill, which failed to pass before the end of a special legislative session, would have required transgender people in the state to use the public bathroom that corresponded to the gender on their birth certificate. It was modeled after North Carolina’s contentious House Bill 2, a similar bill that briefly became law last year and influenced a host of copycat proposals around the country (part of the law still remains on the books in North Carolina).
In Texas, the bill was backed by much of the legislature’s Republican majority, but received fierce opposition from Democrats, business leaders, and LGBT advocates, who worried it would open the door to discrimination and tarnish the state’s business-friendly reputation.
There is already chatter among Republicans about making the issue a central debate of next year’s primaries, in which Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick – who staunchly supported the bathroom bill – could put pressure on moderate Republicans who opposed it, such as House Speaker Joe Straus. The Dallas Morning News said the issue will “likely re-emerge as a conservative litmus test” ahead of the GOP primary in March, and may be revived during the next legislative session in 2019.
Meanwhile, LGBT advocates also acknowledge the bathroom issue hasn’t been completely buried.
“This is certainly an encouraging moment, but it’s not an absolute victory here,” Dan Quinn, communications director for religious equality group Texas Freedom Network, told Vice News. “We’re going to keep fighting these bills every time the legislature comes back to town, because the leaders in the Senate and in the governor’s mansion are obsessed with passing this kind of bill.”
Meanwhile, bathroom-bill initiatives in other states fared equally poorly. Of the 16 states in which bathroom bills were proposed in 2017, only Texas’s came close to becoming law, with most of the others dying in committee or failing to reach the legislature’s floor, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.