Forest speaks to Texas legislature, urges single sex bathroom law

N.C.s lieutenant governor traveled to Houston Monday urging lawmakers there to pass Texas Privacy Act

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest begins the third reading of House Bill 39 before the Senate votes in the Legislative Building in Raleigh

HOUSTON — North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest appeared at press conference with his Texas counterpart, Dan Patrick, in Houston Monday. Forest was there to meet with the Texas Senate to give his perspective on the impact of H.B. 2 on North Carolina. The bill limited access to multi-stalled bathrooms in publicly owned buildings to the sex listed on an individual’s birth certificate.The bill put N.C. at the center of the debate over transgender access to multi-stalled restrooms, and Texas may be wading into the issue with pending legislation, the Texas Privacy Act, which would limit restroom access to a single biological sex. The bill is being championed by Lt. Gov. Patrick, a Republican and conservative. Like H.B. 2, the Texas bill allows private companies and venues to make their own policies on bathroom access, while government buildings, schools and universities will have access set by state law based on the biological sex on one’s current birth certificate. Also like H.B. 2, it says that individual schools may create their own policies on a case-by-case basis in use of single-stalled restrooms.Critics contend the bill infringes on the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Earlier this month, a business group sent a letter to Patrick pointing to H.B. 2’s affect on North Carolina, saying the bill is “discriminatory legislation that jeopardizes the positive environment for our Texas business operations.”Forest was with Patrick at the press conference to try to ease fears. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that H.B. 2 has cost the Tarheel State approximately $500 million in canceled concerts, athletic events, and a planned job expansion. North Carolina’s GDP is $510 billion, and Forest said the impact was less than 0.1 percent of the state economy, assuring Texas lawmakers that the impact of the law was “overblown.” He said blanket transgender bathroom access ordinances to multi-stalled restrooms would allow predators to use the law to gain access to women’s restrooms. He indicated that single-stall access is a solution for those with a need for gender-neutral accommodations.”I believe this is an issue about doing the right thing,” said Forest in the press conference. “It is an issue about privacy and safety and protection for all people. N.C., like Texas, is a state of reasonable accommodation. What we are talking about is the rights of women, the rights of children. Women’s rights are human rights. We have to fight to protect that while we show compassion for those who do have needs.”In the press conference, Patrick said he has enlisted Christian pastors statewide to help him win approval for the legislation as it heads to a state Senate committee this week. He called the Texas Privacy Act a common-sense measure to keep sexual predators out of bathrooms.Patrick announced the start of a “1 million voices” campaign, with pastors enlisted to win support from their congregations for the legislation. Committee debate started in Texas on Tuesday.”North Carolina was the tip of the spear,” Patrick said. “We will be next to pass a bill that focuses on privacy, a person’s privacy, and public safety.” Analysts say he may be able to get support for the bill in the Texas state Senate, but do not expect it to make it through the House.Texas Speaker Joe Straus, a Republican who drives the agenda in that body, has shown tepid support, saying there are worries in San Antonio, an area he represents that is slated to host the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four.