Law enforcement officials from across the state spoke out today at the Texas Capitol against proposed legislation that would restrict bathroom access to transgender people. Senate Bill 3, known as the “bathroom bill,” would restrict access to restrooms in government buildings to the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate.
Chiefs and other high-ranking law enforcement officers were uniform in their condemnation of the bill, which is a priority item during the special legislative session.
At the rally on the south steps, interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said the bill could keep police officers from doing their jobs and, ultimately, make the state less safe.
“I do not see the bill that is being considered, as we know it – “the bathroom bill” – increases public safety in any way,” Manley said, “but instead could, in fact, and will jeopardize the safety of many in our community.”
Manley’s former boss – former Austin Police Department head and current Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo – echoed his argument against the bill, suggesting that legislation proposed by Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, and championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, seeks to create a problem, rather than solve one. Kolkhorst and other proponents of the bill contend it will protect those in “private spaces” and prevent sexual predators from occupying restrooms.
“We’ve been checking our databases to see these horrific crimes that this bill will purportedly prevent,” Acevedo said. “[W]e have yet to find anything that this will prevent, because, in truth, this is a purported solution that is in search of a problem – a nonexistent problem.”
Annette Burrhus-Clay, executive director of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, who was also at the event, said "sexual assault has been co-opted to promote these bills."
San Antonio Police Chief Bill McManus argued that, while proponents of the bill say the restrictions will make Texans safer, it will ultimately have a discriminatory effect on transgender Texans.
“The bathroom bill does not pass the test, the most basic test, of any public safety bill. It does nothing to make people safer,” McManus said. “More than that, it creates new complications for police officers. It targets transgender Texans. It will sow confusion among the general public.”
Municipal and county law enforcement officials from El Paso, Houston, Corpus Christi and Dallas also joined the event. The Texas Municipal Police Association and the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, the state’s largest police union have also expressed opposition to the bill.
Meanwhile in the Senate, lawmakers debated both SB 3 and Senate Bill 91, which would ban local nondiscrimination ordinances protecting transgender restroom access. Democrats attempted to sideline a final vote on the bills, arguing the bill wasn’t germane to Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for a special session.