AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – A top House Republican delayed a hearing on controversial legislation Wednesday that would limit transgender students’ use of school bathrooms and locker rooms, saying the author needed to its soften language.
The bill’s author, Pasadena Republican Rep. Gilbert Pena, said the legislation would be “toned down” – but didn’t offer many specifics – after the chairman of the powerful House State Affairs Committee removed it from the panel’s agenda because the language was too harsh.
“It needed a whole lot of work,” Rep. Byron Cook, the committee chairman, told The Associated Press in an interview. He declined to elaborate, but said: “These sorts of bills need to be extremely well thought-out.”
As it currently reads, Pena’s bill would require school districts to adopt a policy to ensure only people of the same “biological sex” may be in the same bathroom or locker room at any given time. It also specifies that students could sue their school district and recover as much as $2,000 in damages if they encounter a peer of the opposite sex in the bathroom or locker room.
Pena suggested he may lower the allowed money damages, but didn’t elaborate. He also declined to talk about his motivation behind the bill.
The legislation is among four so-called bathroom bills introduced in the Legislature this year that would specify which facilities transgender students use and punish erroneous users. None of the other three bills – which would criminally charge transgender students who use the wrong public bathroom, shower or locker room – has been scheduled for a hearing. All four have been assigned to Cook’s committee.
Pena said he expects the proposal to be rescheduled for a hearing next week.
Gay-rights advocacy group Equality Texas, which opposes the measures, said the week-long postponement was a victory because only 47 days are left in the legislative session.
The bill would make it more difficult for transgender students to get an education, said Daniel Williams, Equality Texas’ legislative specialist. He added: “I don’t know how that can possibly be toned down.”