Over a hundred pastors and concerned Texans – fathers, mothers, daughters, people of faith representing millions of conservative Texans with deeply held traditional values – came together from all over Texas last Thursday, a hot and muggy mid-morning, on the steps of the Capitol to voice their unified support for the Texas Privacy Act (SB3) passed by the State Senate last month and currently languishing in the House under the leadership of Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) and State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook (R-Corsicana). The often repeated rallying cry led by the speakers was “Let the House Vote!” with participants holding up signs with the same slogan.
Senate Bill 3 essentially protects the privacy and safety of women and children in bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms in government buildings and public schools. The mainstream press has sarcastically dubbed the bill the Texas “Bathroom Bill”.
Organized by Houston Pastor Dave Welch of the Texas Pastor Council and other pastors from around the state, the rally was billed as the Pastors’ Capitol Stand for Women’s Privacy. The author of the SB3 Bill, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), in her address to the rally attendees decried the city ordinances that have cropped up around the state, fueled by the national homosexual rights advocacy organizations such as the Washington, D.C. based Human Rights Campaign, the Gill Action Fund, and their local state ally, Equality Texas, formerly the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas.
In response to the criticism that the bill is addressing a non-issue, she asked, “[W]hy do we see a patchwork of different policies being adopted across our state? It is our duty to say, ‘This is what it is (Texas Privacy Bill) and this is what it’s going to be for the state of Texas.'” Pastor Welch and close to a thousand Texas pastors signed an open letter to the Governor, Lt. Governor, and state legislators, critical of the ambiguity in definitions, language, and enforcement policy in city ordinances passed by the largest municipalities. They expressed their strong disapproval for the new special interest group based on the absence of “qualifications, limits or parameters in these ‘definitions,’ leaving the door wide open (literally and figuratively) for abuse.”
For example, San Antonio defines transgender as a “gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of an individual, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.” In Dallas, transgender “means an individual’s real or perceived gender identity as male, female, both, or neither.” In Houston it means an “individual’s innate identification, appearance, expression or behavior as either male or female, although the same may not correspond to the body’s gender as assigned at birth.”
Other speakers at the rally included State Representative Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton), author of the House version of the Privacy Act (HB46) , Tracye Bradford of the Texas Eagle Forum, Melissa Conway of Texas Right to Life, Cindy Asmussen of the Southern Baptists of Texas, Dana Hodges of Concerned Women for America, and others.
Tracye Bradford asked, “When did it become okay for the business lobby of Texas to dictate our Christian values and declare that perception is the rule of the day? Well, they may want to live in a fantasyland but we live in the real world. We moms, we women that live in this real world, will protect our sons and daughters. We will do this fiercely and in love. We are going to claim that word back. Let’s just let everybody know it is time to pick a side. And we are picking the side where we will not be silent, we will speak the truth boldly, and we will do it in the love of Jesus Christ.”
Speaking of the business lobby, there are a number of large corporations who have attacked the Texas Privacy Act as a discriminatory practice echoing the arguments of the homosexual advocacy organizations. Some of these corporations are well-known household names like IBM, Apple, Amazon, Google, Cisco, Facebook, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, AT&T, and Texas Instruments.
Why do these corporations raise their voices about the peculiar issue of men’s access to women’s bathrooms and locker rooms? This writer lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for twenty years. In my opinion and experience, what often occurs in major corporations is the infiltration of LGBT employees who rise through the ranks in their corporations and agitate for “diversity” and LGBT friendly policies to change the culture of the company. I saw it up close working for a high tech computer manufacturing company in Silicon Valley. Our Chief Information Officer had a same sex partner, hired LGBT managers and directors, and before we knew it domestic partner coverage was included in the HR benefit program, “diversity fairs” were introduced in a number of our corporate campuses. My company had a very early transgender issue in the early 90s where an employee who was based in the building where I worked declared that she was going through sex reassignment surgery. All our employees were sent a circular letter asking us to attend an HR sponsored workshop to prepare our department for such changes. One day the fellow employee was Steven and now Susan or vice versa.
What happens then in these corporations is there are now powerful LGBT advocates at high executive positions who speak out for LGBT rights, conveying the message that the corporation AND their customers and suppliers support these same views about sexual morality. Remember that the next time you turn your Apple iPhone on. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, came out as a gay person in 2014. (I’m Proud to be Gay)
One other revealing explanation why business groups have come out to attack the Texas Privacy Act is purely about payola politics. According to a conservative Texas watchdog organization, the Texas Association of Business “received $130,000 of its $200,000 campaign budget from national LGBT groups, including the Gill Foundation and the Human Rights Campaign. The group also received funding, presumably courtesy of taxpayers, from the cities of Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio.”
(Leaked TAB Documents Reveal LGBT Funding)
Senator Kolkhorst drew attention at the rally to the arguments “that we will lose dollars here (in Texas)”. Certainly Houston did not suffer economically from any organized business boycott after the Houston Pastors led a successful referendum in November of 2015 to rescind the city’s special rights ordinance adding a protected class of persons on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). 61% of Houston voters opted to rescind HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance).
Lt Gov. Dan Patrick whose hometown is Houston had these choice words for the people of Texas and residents of Houston:
“It was about protecting our grandmoms, and our mothers and our wives and our sisters and our daughters and our granddaughters. I’m glad Houston led tonight to end this constant political-correctness attack on what we know in our heart and our gut as Americans is not right… I want to thank the voters in the City of Houston for turning out in record numbers to defeat Houston Prop 1 – the bathroom ordinance. The voters clearly understand that this proposition was never about equality – that is already the law. It was about allowing men to enter women’s restrooms and locker rooms – defying common sense and common decency.”
Senator Kolkhorst’s parting words were defiant and forceful when she declared that the Texas Privacy Act is a women’s right issue, repeating her favorite battle cry, “Daughters Over Dollars!” Texas women must “break the silence”, she said, and more:
“Millions of dollars are being spent right now to twist the argument … SB3 shuts down the opportunity for predators and lawyers to assault women by proposing to exploit a lack of gender boundaries. It’s that simple. Who thinks that a boy should play in girls sports? There should be some boundaries … We are here today to give common sense guidance to our cities, counties, and our school districts.
“We (women) do not want to be violated in any way in those intimate places, in our dressing rooms, our restrooms, in our showers, in those public settings. I have said this is a women’s right issue and I believe that in my heart .. be loud, women. We want privacy in our intimate spaces.”
After the rally, the organized group proceeded into the cooler interior of the capitol building to pay a visit at Representative Byron Cook’s office. Surely the Chairman of the House State Affairs committee was aware of the rally. To the group’s disappointment and, no surprise to this writer, Representative Cook’s office was locked.
This writer engaged Representative Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) in the hallway at the state capitol after the rally and inquired about his position on the SB3 bill, the Texas Privacy Act. (Larson was my representative before relocating my family to another area in the metro area two years ago) He said Sen. Kolkhorst did not call him to discuss it and a district poll showed his constituents did not approve of the “bathroom bill”. Did that poll include Democrats and Republicans? A Republican friend related to me that she received a call from a polling service who asked about the “bathroom bill”. She said the question was so confusing that when she was able to clarify the question, she answered that she did support the Privacy Act.
I let Larson know that there was a Pastors’ rally a few hours earlier to support SB3. He responded that the House has yet to look at the bill to see what changes need to be made. I asked why changes need to be made. It’s a simple bill. Why not accept it as is and vote for one of the Governor’s priority bills? Before stomping off, he retorted that he’s for “good government”. That’s it? Good government? Municipalities should write ordinances with different qualifications and definitions of what a transgender is and impose different penalties arbitrarily? What about stiffer penalties for men impersonating a person of the opposite sex to gain entry into women’s and girls’ bathrooms? Especially in scenarios with malicious intentions to rob or sexually assault women and girls in such intimate spaces? Would cameras now have to be installed in every public restroom and school locker room thereby further infringing on the privacy of women and children?