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State Senator Jose Rodriguez | Photo courtesy Sen. Rodriguez office

Opinion: State Rep Rodriguez Issues Statement on Senate Bill 6

Austin – Senator José Rodríguez released the following statement regarding Senate Bill 6, which targets vulnerable Texans for discrimination:

S.B. 6 is problematic in a number of ways, from creating legal issues to nullifying local control to targeting, instead of protecting, vulnerable Texans. While it is disturbing that we are being forced to fight what amounts to state-ordered discrimination, we must take this opportunity to educate Texans on the law and on the trans community, which needs our support, not to be vilified or discriminated against.

First, S.B. 6 conflicts with federal civil rights laws because it discriminates on the basis of sex. Both Title VII and Title IX of our federal civil rights laws expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. Further, S.B. 6’s attempt to define sex as a matter of law on the basis of biology is contrary to Supreme Court precedent, from Price Waterhouse to Bauer v. Lynch to Jackson v. Birmingham Bd. of Education.

S.B. 6 conflicts with EEOC and OSHA regulations regarding how employers, including state and local government employers, must treat transgender employees. The Trump administration’s recent withdrawal of guidance regarding DOE’s interpretation of Title IX cannot change the meaning of sex discrimination and does not reverse existing case law. The sex discrimination authorized by S.B. 6 cannot be justified by the possibility that someone may be discomfited by the mere presence of a transgender individual in a public restroom.

More broadly, S.B. 6 conflicts with the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantee. And finally, because S.B. 6 cannot be reconciled with federal civil rights laws or the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution, it would put school districts, municipalities, and other governmental entities in Texas in an untenable position. Simply put, S.B. 6 exposes school districts and other government entities to litigation and liability.

I understand the gut level reaction some have when they think of a man in a woman’s bathroom. This is not what is happening. Transgender individuals are few in number, and simply want to be able to live in peace. They more often are targeted for violence, ridicule and discrimination, and legislation like this encourages the continued misunderstanding of these vulnerable Texans.

If there are any cases of men pretending to be women to gain access to a woman’s bathroom to commit a crime, they are exceedingly few. In all this sound and fury over the issue, I have yet to see any examples of this type of crime. I have heard of criminal actions that were criminal before, regardless of whether S.B. 6 passed or not.

The more I’ve learned about transgender and gender nonconforming Texans, the more I’ve come to understand that the problem is ignorance. Well-intentioned people might, as I stated initially, have a gut level reaction in which they imagine a burly man, or even a teen male, flippantly claiming to be female to take advantage of the policy of allowing transgender people to use the bathroom appropriate for their gender identity. However, the facts don’t bear this out. To cause this amount of division over something that’s not a real problem points to something deeper.

Once we’ve examined all the facts at hand – the substantial legal issues, the question of criminal activity against transgender people and the absence of criminal activity by them, the economic arguments about why social discrimination is bad for business – the only thing left is the fear, lack of knowledge, and in some cases, hate, that some people have for LGBTQ Texans.

Sadly, this is what we are left with – fear, hate, misunderstanding. I will continue working to educate my colleagues on this vulnerable population and the need to support them, not codify discrimination against them.

I sympathize with those who have not yet discovered compassion for all their fellow Texans, but I will not yield to their fears. I stand with equality, and against S.B. 6.

José Rodríguez represents Texas Senate District 29, which includes the counties of El Paso, Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis, and Presidio. He represents both urban and rural constituencies, and more than 350 miles of the Texas-Mexico border. Senator Rodríguez currently serves as the Chairman of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus, and is a member of the Senate Committees on Natural Resources and Economic Development; Transportation; Veteran Affairs and Border Security; and Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs (Vice Chair).

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