Local advocacy group fears passage of ‘bathroom bill’

As Texas’ controversial “bathroom bill” surpassed a major hurdle this week, a Dripping Springs-based group joins others, fearing passage of the measure could lead to discrimination against transgender people.

Senate Bill 3, authored by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brehnam), passed by a 21-10 vote in the Texas Senate July 25.

SB 3, along with its House companion bill, is one of 20 items Texas Gov. Greg Abbott listed as priority when he called a special legislative session in June.

Under the so-called “bathroom bill,” Texans would be required to use bathrooms in public schools or government buildings based on the sex listed on their birth certificate or state issued identification, rather than their choice.

However, the bill continues to draw backlash from a variety of opponents who believe the measure is discriminatory.

According to a July 25 Texas Tribune report, police chiefs from Austin, Houston and San Antonio publicly denounced the bill, claiming it could take police away from their duties and would compromise public safety.

But frustration is rising within the Dripping Springs-based  Many Stripes, One Tiger (MSOT) group as they feel legislators are not listening to constituents’ concerns.

Andy Hutton, one of the leaders of MSOT who attended the eight-hour July 25 SB 3 discussion, said testimony was overwhelmingly against SB3. He said those who spoke out against SB 3 were parents like he, along with law enforcement personnel, business leaders and mental health professionals.

Hutton said he was dismayed when legislators passed the bill to the next stage.

“I honestly couldn’t understand how in the face of that testimony the committee couldn’t be moved by the real issues people face,” Hutton said.

As the bill moves ahead, Hutton said MSOT will continue to tell the story of a transgender Walnut Springs Elementary student whose struggle they are trying to bring to light.

The creation of MSOT came following State Rep. Jason Isaac’s (R-Dripping Springs) advocacy of bathroom regulation after parents learned of a transgender student at Walnut Springs.

The resulting outcry led to an argumentative Dripping Springs ISD board of trustees meeting in September 2016, where those on both sides of the bathroom issue spoke out.

In 2017, the first iteration of the SB 3 was filed during the regular 85th legislative session. However, the bill didn’t pass the Texas House and died before the end of the regular session.

The Hays Free Press reached out to Jason Isaac for an updated comment on the topic. According to a spokesperson, Isaac was not available for comment prior to press time.

Hutton said the family whose child is in the middle of the fight is “scared” for what the bill could mean for their child. Like many parents, Hutton said they wish to see their child thrive and live his or her life without being bullied.

“For whatever reason, children like theirs have been singled out,” Hutton said. “They’re worried about that and they’re angry about it, too.”

However, Hutton believes fear, not hate, is driving the bathroom bill. He felt legislators should rely on “hard facts” and not use fear to create legislation.

He feels legislators “listening and having compassion for someone else’s experiences” could solve many issues. 

“If this is a health concern, and police come out and say it’s not and legislators still ignore that, it’s driven by something other than what they say is its purpose,” Hutton said.

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