The Senate State Affairs Committee in Texas has voted 8-1 in favour of SB3—known as the Texas bathroom bill—which would prevent transgender people from using a public bathroom that matches their gender identity, Reuters reports.
The vote came after ten hours of public testimony from citizens—most of whom were transgender Texans and their families—who made emotional pleas for lawmakers to reconsider passing the bill.
More than 250 transgender activists and allies gathered at the Texas State Capitol building in Austin to rally against the bill carrying signs that read ‘Y’all means All’ and ‘Don’t Discriminate in the Lone Star State’.
Transgender woman and San Antonio architect Ashley Smith said if the bill were passed, it would pose a real danger to the trans community.
"Can’t you see how this legislation would make the very real problem of assault even worse?" she asked members of the Senate Committee on State Affairs.
Smith recently uploaded a photo of herself posing with Texas Governor Greg Abbott who is a supporter of the bathroom bill and clearly had no idea he was standing next to a trans woman.
The bill’s sponsor—Republican Senator Lois Kolkhorst—said SB3 was about "about much more than bathrooms”.
"(It) is about finding a balance between the right to declare your gender and the right of a parent to protect their child," she said.
The bill would mean that people would only be allowed to use a public bathroom that matches the gender displayed on their birth certificate.
Business leaders in Texas have opposed the bathroom bill, which has already cost the state $66 million dollars in convention business, according to Reuters.
After North Carolina introduced a similar bill in March 2016, AP estimated that the legislation would cost the state $3.76 billion dollars over the course of 12 years.
The state was boycotted by the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) organisations that both cancelled major sporting events that were set to be held in the state. Performers such as Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Demi Lovato and Maroon 5 also pulled out of scheduled concerts in North Carolina.
The Texas bill will now head to the conservative Republican dominated Senate, where it is expected to pass later this month. However, it could have trouble passing in the House of Representatives, where Republican Speaker Joe Straus has spoken out against the bill's effect on the transgender community and the Texas economy.