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On So-Called Bathroom Bill, Greg Abbott Staying Neutral as Pressure Builds

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[gdlr_notification icon=”fa-flag” type=”color-background” background=”#ffcc20″ color=”#000000″]This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune[/gdlr_notification]

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is maintaining his largely neutral stance on the so-called bathroom bill as pressure picks up on him to weigh in on the legislation. 

“This is an alarming issue that is an obvious concern to a lot of Texans,” Abbott told The Texas Tribune Thursday night while attending the Latino Inaugural Gala, an event celebrating Friday’s inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump. “I think it’s very important that legislators have the opportunity to listen to the concerns of their fellow Texans and consider what the right remedies for those concerns.” 

Abbott’s remarks came a day after House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, delivered a speech in which he expressed apprehension about the legislation and said Abbott’s opinion on it could make a “big difference.”  

The legislation, Senate Bill 6, would require transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on “biological sex” and would pre-empt local nondiscrimination ordinances that allow transgender Texans to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has called the bill one of his top priorities of the legislative session. 

When he was asked about the bill before it was released, Abbott took a wait-and-see approach, calling it a legitimate issue but saying more information was needed on it. He indicated Thursday night his posture toward legislation has not changed much in the two weeks since Patrick unveiled it alongside state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, the bill’s lead author. 

Pressed on the issue Thursday night, Abbott again emphasized that it is worthy of attention, especially after President Barack Obama created a “new paradigm” by issuing guidelines last year allowing for public schools to accommodate transgender students.  

“So you have parents of kids in schools who have legitimate concerns about this new situation that their children are put in that they’re going to have to address,” Abbott said. “Now it may mean dealing with the administration in Washington, it may mean that we come up with some news laws, but what’s important is we find remedies that allay the concerns of these parents about the situation their children have been put in.”  

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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[gdlr_notification icon=”fa-camera” type=”color-background” background=”#999999″ color=”#ffffff”]Top image: Gov. Greg Abbott acknowledges the crowd of business leaders and educators following his speech Sept. 19, 2016 to the Texas Education & Workforce Summit luncheon on campus. / photo illustration: Bob Daemmrich / Texas Tribune[/gdlr_notification]

Patrick Svitek is the primary political correspondent for The Texas Tribune, and editor of The Blast, the Tribune's subscription-only daily newsletter for political insiders. Patrick logged countless miles on the 2016 campaign trail, covering the many Texas angles of the momentous presidential race. He previously worked for the Houston Chronicle's Austin bureau. He graduated in 2014 from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He originally is from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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september 2020

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