AUSTIN, Texas (TRIBUNE) – State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. on Monday came out in support of the so-called "bathroom bill," giving Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick a Democratic supporter in his push for the high-profile legislation.
Lucio, who has previously bucked his party on social issues, announced he will vote for the legislation, Senate Bill 6, while appearing at a news conference with Patrick and other bathroom bill supporters. Lucio's announcement kicked off a flurry of activity at the Capitol — both for and against the bill — ahead of its hearing Tuesday in the Senate State Affairs Committee.
Lucio's support means there are now 16 senators — 15 Republicans — on the record in favor of the legislation. At the news conference, Patrick insisted that before Lucio's announcement, the bill had the support of the 19 senators it needs to be brought to the Senate floor. It's unclear who the other three are.
Senate Bill 6 would require transgender people to use the bathroom in public schools, government buildings and public universities that matches their "biological sex." The legislation would also reverse local nondiscrimination ordinances that let transgender people use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
"Children, youth and parents in these difficult situations deserve compassion, sensitivity and respect without infringing on legitimate concerns about privacy and security from other students and parents," Lucio said at the news conference.
Lucio, who is from Brownsville, has previously found himself at odds with the Democratic Party. A devout Catholic, he has supported legislation tightening restrictions on abortion in Texas.
At the news conference, Patrick also announced he was launching “Operation 1 Million Voices,” an effort to build support for the bill among Christians in Texas. Organizers said hundreds of pastors are already involved in the project and will hold events over the next two months across the state.
Patrick was accompanied at the news conference by North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who pushed through similar legislation in his state’s legislature to much controversy last year. Forest, who called Senate Bill 6 “very similar” to the North Carolina law, urged Texas lawmakers to resist warnings of economic doom if they pass Senate Bill 6.
“No businesses left North Carolina,” Forest said. "This is not an economic issue. This is about doing the right thing. There is no price tag you put on a head of a woman or a child in a place of public accommodation.”