The Texas legislature has advanced two bills that will cause harm to children in the state. One would keep transgender students from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity; the other allows religion-based discrimination in adoption and foster care.
The Texas Senate yesterday passed HB 3859, which would allow child placement agencies, including ones that receiving public funds, to refuse services to anyone if providing them would conflict with the agency’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.” It would allow them to turn away both LGBTQ youth and LGBTQ prospective parents, as well as those of different faiths, thus limiting the number of otherwise qualified homes available to children who need them. Additionally, it says no adverse action may be taken against foster or adoptive parents who want to send their child(ren) to religious school or who refuse to provide or facilitate contraception or abortion services. The bill now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott (R).
Lambda Legal asserts, “The bill is squarely at odds with federal law and professional standards set out by The Child Welfare League of America and others,” and urges Gov. Abbott to veto it. Gov. Abbott, himself an adoptive father, has not said definitively that he will, but in March sent a tweet noting that North Carolina’s economy was still booming even after that state’s similar bill.
This is only one in a string of similar bills that have passed or are under consideration in other states.
And the Texas House yesterday passed SB 2078, which requires schools to provide single-occupancy facilities for students who do not want to use the bathroom of their biological sex, and says these students may also use a multi-occupancy facility “only if the use occurs when no other persons are present.” The intent of the bill was to restrict transgender students from using the bathroom matching their gender identity. Some are now saying that while the bill “requires the provision of the facility … it doesn’t take the next step that the district require any particular person use any particular facility,” reports the Dallas News. That seems like a fine line to be debating when a student has to pee.
The single-occupancy provision isn’t a good solution in any case. Here’s what Gender Spectrum says in its guide, “Transgender Students and School Bathrooms: Frequently Asked Questions,” a resource endorsed by the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals:
Transgender students already face a great many barriers to acceptance at school, and requiring them to use a bathroom that is designated especially for them is tremendously stigmatizing. A school’s insistence that they be segregated from their peers also sends a message that the student’s gender identity is not real or valid and represents an official refutation of the child’s sense of self. This can be devastating to the child’s sense of safety coming from the very adults charged with protecting them. If forced to use a private space, many transgender students will simply not use any bathroom at school, compromising their health and interfering with their ability to focus on learning as they monitor their water intake, avoid foods that will make them thirsty, and/or try to wait to until they get home to go to the bathroom. Make no mistake about it: not allowing a transgender student to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity causes harm—emotionally, physically, academically, and socially. It is not a matter of discomfort. Explicitly denying a transgender student’s access to the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity endangers their health and well-being.
The “bathroom” part of the bill was in fact an amendment to a bill that is focused on requiring schools to create natural disaster and emergency preparedness plans. It now goes to the Senate, which had tried to pass its own version of the bill that included government buildings, colleges, and universities as well as secondary schools. That version died in committee, but it looks like the House version will have a chance back in the Senate. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) has made the passage of a bathroom bill one of his top 10 priorities for the year.