Texas Governor Greg Abbott is no friend of the trans community. He is unapologetic in his fight to prevent trans citizens in Texas from accessing one of the most basic human necessities: public bathrooms. In a fight that has been compared to the African American civil rights battle of the 1960s, Governor Abbott has sworn to do everything in his power to prevent trans citizens from using the bathroom they identify with and has vowed to support North Carolina in that state’s fight against the Obama administration over trans bathroom rights.
In late March, North Carolina passed a piece of anti-LGBT legislation officially known as HB2 and unofficially called the “bathroom bill.” The law barred members of the transgender community in the state from using the public bathroom they identify with, instead requiring them to use the bathroom listed on their birth certificate. The novel legislation, among the most restrictive anti-trans laws in the country, resulted in a massive boycott of North Carolina.
About a week ago, the Obama administration weighed in on the controversial North Carolina law, saying that it violated the Civil Rights Act and demanding that North Carolina stop enforcing HB2. North Carolina responded with a lawsuit, and the Obama administration responded to that lawsuit with a letter to all schools in the United States, advising them that trans students should be able to use the bathroom they identify with. Texas Governor Greg Abbott responded by saying that Texas is fighting the presidential edict within its own borders and supporting North Carolina’s fight, too.
Texas Governor Abbot continued his rally against trans rights in Texas on May 17, also known as the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. Governor Abbott took to Twitter once again to berate President Obama and the trans community in a single tweet.
JFK wanted to send a man to the moon. Obama wants to send a man to the women's restroom. We must get our country back on track. #tcot— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 17, 2016
At the same time that Governor Greg Abbott was inexplicably comparing trans rights and the moon landing, President Obama was issuing a statement in support of the LGBT rights in honor of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. The president said that his administration was committed to “advancing the human rights of LGBT individuals.” The contrast between the POTUS’ values and the aims of Texas Governor Greg Abbott couldn’t have been more starkly illustrated.
As the Guardian reports, Governor Greg Abbott and other Texas officials have promised that Texas will be at the helm of state-level efforts to rebel against Obama’s attempts to advance LGBT rights. The political and legal fights that Texas is prepared to wage against both Obama’s administration and the LGBT community have activists and LGBT citizens alarmed.
Most pundits now believe that the trans bathroom issue will end up at the U.S. Supreme Court. Unfortunately, in the current climate, members of the trans community are increasingly vulnerable and victimized, both in Texas and across the nation, as their basic civil rights are being used as political fodder. At least one transgender activist let his feelings be known.
“We have been swept up and are being used in a political game and a lot of fear-mongering is going on around our identity. It’s not unlike the civil rights movement in the 60’s around race but now the identity piece that’s being used is gender identity.”
Unfortunately for the trans community, Texas Governor Greg Abbott doesn’t seem to factor their feelings into his political bluster. Just last week, he doubled down on his plans to fight against trans rights and to erode away the few small victories the trans community has managed to win. He spoke of his plans at the Texas GOP convention.
“Obama is turning bathrooms into courtroom issues. I want you to know, I am working with the governor of North Carolina, and we are going to fight back.”
At that same Texas GOP convention, lawmakers adopted a 32-page platform indicating that legislators will be pursuing a law similar to North Carolina’s controversial HB2 during next January’s Texas legislative session.
“We urge the enactment of legislation addressing individuals’ use of bathrooms, showers and locker rooms that correspond with their biologically determined sex. [We further oppose] all policies and curriculum that teach alternate lifestyles including homosexuality, transgender and other non-traditional lifestyles as normal.”
Also included in the GOP platform is a call for Texas Governor Greg Abbot to further chip away at LGBT civil rights in the State of Texas by overturning 2015’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
Despite all of Governor Abbott’s bluster and Twitter bravado, the director of public policy at the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, Nathan Smith, says that he’s not worried about new laws passing in the short-term. The reason: Few state legislatures are in session, and most states are biding their time until there has been a definitive ruling on North Carolina’s notorious HB2.
With a highly contentious presidential election to be decided in November and most likely a Supreme Court Justice to be appointed shortly thereafter, the ultimate fate of HB2 and trans rights in the U.S. is anybody’s guess. There’s a lot riding on this election, and for all of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s bizarre Twitter rants and misguided fear of the trans community, he must know as well as the next governor that this is an issue that will almost certainly be decided at the federal level.
[Photo by Jana Birchum/Getty Images]