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Texas Republican introduces bathroom bill

WiG and AP reports

A Republican Texas state senator today introduced a bathroom bill that would prohibit transgender people from using public restrooms that match their gender.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick quickly marked the proposed bill, named the “Texas Privacy Act,” as a top legislative priority, saying it’s necessary to protect public safety.

The bill is similar to North Carolina’s notorious House Bill 2, which made the state a pariah as well as a political flashpoint for much of last year. The law played a key role in flushing North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory out of office in November, when voters in the state narrowly elected former state Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democratic challenger who had called the law “a national embarrassment.”

The law also cost North Carolina millions in lost business. High-profile entertainers, such as Bruce Springsteen, canceled plans to perform in the state.

At least one business group in Texas warned today that the measure would hurt that state’s economy as well.

The Texas Privacy Act comes four months after U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor blocked a federal directive issued by the Obama administration requiring public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. That judgment was issued in a case brought by Texas, Wisconsin and nine other states challenging the directive.

Several days ago, O’Connor blocked another Obama administration effort to strengthen transgender rights, this time over health rules that social conservatives say could force doctors to violate their religious beliefs.

A coalition of religious medical organizations said the rules could force doctors to help with gender transition contrary to their religious beliefs or medical judgment. O’Connor agreed in his 46-page ruling, saying the rules place “substantial pressure on Plaintiffs to perform and cover transition and abortion procedures.”

Transgender rights advocates called that a far-fetched hypothetical, saying a person would not approach a doctor who lacked suitable experience and expertise.

The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund criticized the injunction as contrary to existing law and said it expects the ruling to be overturned on appeal.

“Judge O’Connor’s conclusion that transgender people and persons who have had abortions are somehow excepted from protection is deeply troubling, legally specious, and morally repugnant,” said Ezra Young, the organization’s director of impact litigation.

O’Connor’s rulings and the Texas Privacy Act add to the rising fears of transgender people that more GOP-governed states will approve legislation limiting transgender rights and will reject proposals to expand such rights. Wisconsin Republicans are expected to take up a bathroom bill in the current legislative session, after dropping one last year.

Helping to fuel fears among transgenders is the uncertainty over the position that will be taken by the administration of President-elect Donald Trump. Many transgender people expect him to abandon or weaken the transgender protection efforts pursued by the Obama administration.

Trump sent mixed signals about his approach to transgender rights during his campaign, at one point saying transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner could use whatever bathroom she preferred in one of his luxury buildings.

At the same time, Trump declined to repudiate North Carolina ‘s House Bill 2. He said such policy decisions should be left up to the states.