May 22, 2017 at 3:14 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Texas lawmakers advance anti-LGBT adoption, bathroom bills
Dan Patrick, gay news, Washington Blade

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-Texas) has sworn to make an anti-trans bill a priority for his state. (Photo by Gage Skidmore; courtesy Flickr)

Under a threat from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of being called into a special session, the Texas Legislature late Sunday advanced two anti-LGBT measures — one pertaining to adoption, the other transgender students — with days remaining before lawmakers were set to adjourn.

The Texas Senate voted 21-10 to pass House Bill 3859, which would allow taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse to place children in homes over religious objections. Given that many of these agencies are religious in nature, that could lead to them refusing to place children with LGBT families.

Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement the measure “is a dangerous, discriminatory bill” that represents anti-LGBT animus “coloring so much of the Texas Legislature this session.”

“This ‘Slate of Hate’ that the Texas Legislature has made a priority harms LGBTQ Texans,” Rouse said. “It is unconscionable that a bill would prioritize discrimination over the best interest of kids in the child welfare system, but Texas lawmakers have done just that. As HB 3859 heads to Gov. Abbott’s desk, we hope he does not buy into a hateful agenda over the best interest of some of his most vulnerable constituents — Texas’ children looking for loving, stable homes.”

The Texas House already approved HB3859 by a 93-49 vote earlier this month. It now heads to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott for his signature. The Washington Blade has placed a request with his office seeking comment on whether he’ll sign the legislation.

The Texas measure is similar to “religious freedom” adoption laws in Michigan, South Dakota, North Dakota, Virginia and Alabama. South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the anti-LGBT adoptions laws in their states this year.

Meanwhile, the Texas House by a vote of 91-50 added an amendment to Senate Bill 2078 — a bill related to emergency operations plans for school districts — that would bar transgender students from using the public restroom consistent with their gender identity. If a transgender student didn’t want to use the room, the school would be required to offer a single-occupancy facility the student could use provided no one else was in the facility.

The measure now heads to the Senate, which will have to concur with the House’s added amendment, but when that chamber will vote on the bill is uncertain. The Senate does not put up a formal schedule of the bills it will consider, so that could take place any time this week. However, the last day they could pass it is Sunday when the legislative session expires.

The Texas Legislature advanced the bathroom bill after Patrick threatened to return lawmakers to a special session if Senate Bill 6, a standalone bathroom bill, and Senate Bill 2, a property tax bill, weren’t passed, according to the Texas Tribune.

“If we must go to a special session, I will respectfully ask the governor to add both of these bills — plus other legislation he has voiced support for — in that special session call,” Patrick said during a press conference at the Capitol. “If the bills don’t pass in the special and they’re blocked again, I will ask the governor to call us back again and again and again.”

Kasey Suffredini, acting CEO for Freedom for All Americans, said in a statement the advancements of the anti-LGBT measures demonstrate poor judgement in Texas and called on Abbott to veto the legislation.

“There is just chaos in Texas right now, and rather than focusing on initiatives that can improve Texas communities and the lives of hardworking families, lawmakers are exhausting themselves by exploring new ways to make life more challenging and even dangerous for LGBT people,” Suffredini said. “We urge Gov. Abbott to take a deep breath before acting, and think about the real people this bill will hurt. It will devastate families and explicitly expose kids to harmful practices like conversion therapy. Signing HB 3859 would be an unconscionable act of cruelty.”

UPDATE: The Texas legislature continues to tie itself in knots over bathroom legislation. Rejecting the House bathroom measure as too watered-down, the Senate on Wednesday at 1 am passed an amendment barring transgender people from using consistent with their gender identity all public restrooms, not just those in schools, according to the Associated Press.

The Senate measure is identical to Senate Bill 6, which the chamber approved in March.

It remains to be seen what ultimate legislation on bathrooms, if any, the Texas legislature will agreed upon before it adjourns Monday. According to AP, the Senate attached the bathroom measure to a bill by a Democrat who won’t accept the changes.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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