Texas Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have unveiled a “bathroom bill” in the Texas Legislature which forces individuals to use the bathroom corresponding the the gender on their birth certificate and creates harsher punishments for crimes committed in bathrooms. The bill covers government buildings and specifically state colleges and universities like UTD.
“It hinders business opportunities and taxes,” said Christian Filsouf, student government senator.
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus’s comments mirrored that sentiment when he spoke to the Texas Association of Business on Jan. 18.
“Many people where I come from get concerned about anything that can slow down our overall job-creating machine. … They are also watching what happened in North Carolina, and they are not enthusiastic about getting that type of attention,” Straus said at the TAB meeting, as reported by The Texas Tribune.
SG members are currently formulating a plan regarding the bill, including polling, a possible resolution, and talks with the administration.
“This week in senate, we will be voting on whether or not we want to draft a resolution in dissent of the bill or in support of our (transgender) community or student body in general. … We would submit it to not only administration but also to the Texas State Legislature just as a way of saying ‘Hey, we’re Student Government. Each one of us represents approximately 500 students each, and this is what our constituency wants and this is what we care about as a government,’” Filsouf said.
The bill hasn’t been debated in the Legislature yet, but SG members are already planning their next move.
“We do want to have a contingency plan in case, to make sure that in the chance that it would pass that we can immediately react and we can immediately make sure that our students are accommodated and taken care of,” he said.
On campus, members of the LGBTQ community have been watching the legislation’s progress.
UTD is home to two LGBTQ organizations: Pride at UTD, a social organization, and Rainbow Guard which is aimed at student activism. Rainbow Guard Vice President Cody Kuhn said there are several members of the community who are planning on protesting or have contacted their representatives.
“I think that in a lot of ways (transgender) people have become a scapegoat for a kind of cultural shift that a lot of conservatives find very scary,” said Zachary Gentry, the president of Pride at UTD.
Gentry said he views the legislation as the product of a lack of understanding and also as a tool to stifle progressive freedoms.
“There are a lot more (transgender) students here than I think people think, and they deal with a lot more struggles than people think, and just seeing it in the news (if enacted) or even seeing it here will have an impact on their mental health, especially in their ability to interact with other students and their ability to be academically successful,” Gentry said.
Kuhn echoed Gentry’s concerns, and added that he believes the bill to be a misguided attempt to prevent violations in restrooms.
“Excluding (transgender) women from women’s spaces is not protecting women,” Kuhn said.