The State vs. Local Divide Over Texas “Bathroom Bill”

While the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance may be gone, there are still local protections in place for transgender individuals at the University of Houston and in HISD schools. SB 6 would strike those down, along with similar rules in five other Texas cities.


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The Trump Administration has withdrawn the Obama Administration's directive on transgender rights in schools. That removes a significant obstacle facing the supporters of Senate Bill 6, formally known as the "Texas Privacy Act" but widely referred to as the "bathroom bill."

The guidelines enacted last year under President Obama carried the threat of federal prosecution for states that enacted laws like SB 6. The bill would bar any local governments from adopting policies that allow transgender individuals to use the facilities of the gender with which they identify.

"There are five cities – Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, and San Antonio – that have non-discrimination ordinances in place that currently prohibit discrimination based on gender identity with regard to access to public facilities. SB 6 would override those current protections," says Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, a group that advocates for LGBT rights.

Houston's own such law, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), was repealed by a ballot measure in 2015. But there are other ways SB 6 would be felt locally.

"It would impact colleges and universities across the state," Smith says, "including institutions like the University of Houston, which has policies in place that allow access based upon gender identity."

At least eight independent school districts across the state also have policies in place to protect trans students from discrimination. That includes HISD.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media's business reporter, covering the oil...

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