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'Daughters before Dollars': Why This Lawmaker Says Texas Bathroom Fight Is a Women's Rights Issue

08-11-2017
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AUSTIN – An irreconcilable rift between social conservatives and establishment Republicans in Texas appears to have derailed an effort to pass a controversial bathroom bill.

Supporters of the Texas Privacy Act had hoped the state House would follow the Senate and vote to approve the measure in the final stretch of a 30-day special session convened by Gov. Greg Abbott.

The governor's agenda includes addressing property taxes, school financing, new abortion restrictions, and how to fund multiple state agencies under the shadow of sunset legislation.

Yet the most contentious issue was the so-called bathroom bill, which would require Texans to use public restrooms corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificates or driver's licenses. It would also keep transgender athletes from competing in high school sports.

Opponents – which include the transgender community, major corporations, and statewide law enforcement – deride the bill as hateful, discriminatory, and an attack on the civil rights of LGBT Texans.

"We are not trying to harm anyone," Jennicet Gutierrez, a transgender woman explained. "We're just saying that we are a part of society, and we deserve to be treated with respect."

The bill's author also sees this as a civil rights issue, but from a completely different vantage point.

"When we talk about the civil rights issue of our time, I think that this is for me a women's rights issue of our time," Lois Kolkhorst told CBN News.

Kolkhorst, a Republican state senator from the east-central Texas town of Brenham, said she spent a lot of time in prayer over the issue, which failed during the regular legislative session.

"I really went into this about protecting women and children in those intimate spaces from would-be sexual predators. I think that the mainstream media has turned it into something else," she explained.

To her, it all boils down to safety and privacy.

"We don't want to discriminate," she said. "We're all God's people."

"Everyone's voice must be heard," Kolkhorst continued. "But everyone's rights should be protected, and there should not be an infringement on anyone's rights."

While her measure passed in the Texas Senate, moderate Republican leaders in the House have successfully blocked the measure with less than a week to go in the special session.

Opponents believe it would lead to a loss in millions of dollars as it did in North Carolina, which repealed its bathroom bill earlier this year.

"We've seen firsthand what's happened in North Carolina," one opponent said. "They repealed the bill because it was such a bad idea. Why would we want to go down that road?"

Not everyone buys the economic argument.

"We don't want the issue of privacy to be for sale," Jonathan Saenz, president of the pro-family group Texas Values, told CBN News.

"The facts are Texas has been the best state for business for 13 straight years. We're going to be just fine, and I think we're going to be even better when we protect privacy," he said.

Supporters, like Saenz, had hoped that if lawmakers were able to approve the bathroom bill during the special session their efforts would serve as a model for other states to follow.

"If Texas is able to hold the line on this issue and show people across the country that when you stand up for common sense values, when you protect privacy, you're going to see the economy do well, you're going to see it make sense, and you're going to see people that run for elective office realize that that's one way that you continue to stay in office – is when you listen to constituents on this issue," he explained.

LGBT activists, like Jennicet Gutierrez, vow to keep up their fight for equality and justice wherever the bill lands.

"We're going to continue to resist," Gutierrez told CBN News. "We are going to continue to organize harder and mobilize and raise hell."

Sen. Kolkhorst, flanked by LGBT allies and opponents within her own party, has distilled the fight into a hashtag: daughters before dollars.

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