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Texas Senate passes controversial bathroom bill after long debate

(Reuters/Jonathan Drake/File Photo)A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access is seen in the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina May 3, 2016.

The Texas Senate has approved a controversial bill that would require individuals to use public restrooms that correspond to their birth gender.

The bill known as SB6 was passed on Wednesday by a vote of 21–10 after a five-hour debate on Tuesday, Time reported.

Opponents of the bill raised concerns that the proposal would hurt transgender people while its supporters said it is necessary for privacy and safety.

The measure also seeks to preempt local anti-discrimination laws that would allow transgender individuals to use public bathrooms according to their gender identity.

Under the legislation, individuals who use opposite-sex bathrooms will not face any criminal charges, but schools or government entities that fail to comply with the measure could be fined $1,000 to $10,500, depending on the number of violations.

Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, who introduced the measure, said that she has been subjected to much ridicule because of the bill. However, she maintained that it is aimed at protecting women's safety and privacy in public bathrooms and locker rooms, not discriminating against transgender people.

"I've been subjected to many jokes, everybody snickering and talking about the bathroom bill. They've made light of the issue, accusing us of wasting time," Kolkhorst reportedly said on the Senate floor. "I will tell you as a woman, this is not a joke," she added.

Critics of the proposal argued that forcing transgender individuals to use restrooms inconsistent with their gender identity amounts to discrimination and could cause other problems.

"Your birth certificate says you're a female but you look very much like a man, wouldn't your bill unnecessarily create a problem that doesn't exist today?" Democrat Senator Jose Menendez asked Kolkhorst, pointing to two pastors who were born female but now look like men with full beards.

"In 2007, a bill that I carried where an amendment was put on that allowed you to change your birth certificates, that is the remedy to that," Kolkhorst responded.

However, other senators pointed out that there have been judges that denied birth certificate changes in several cases and that the cost to changing a person's sex was prohibitive.

Kolkhorst said that she was moved to propose the bill after the Obama Administration issued a guidance last year instructing schools to allow students to use bathrooms according to their gender identity. The guidance was rescinded by President Donald Trump's administration last month, saying that the issue should be left to the states.

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