Thoughts on Rockwall’s defeated ‘bathroom bill’

Posted on 04 May 2016 at 10:20am
Rockwall Mayor Jim Pruitt

Rockwall Mayor Jim Pruitt

Equal rights advocates around North Texas this week are praising the Rockwall City Council for rejecting a proposed ordinance that would have prohibited transgender people from using the appropriate public restrooms.  But a closer look at the language council members used in debating the ordinance on Monday night, May 2, suggests we haven’t seen the last of some form of a bathroom bill in that city.

The ordinance, proposed by Mayor Jim Pruitt, would have forced transgender men or women using a public, multi-stall restroom in Rockwall to use the one specific to gender they were assigned at birth, rather than the one corresponding to their actual gender identity.

I spent most of Tuesday, May 3, listening to audio recordings of the Monday night council meeting (posted here on the city’s website). I was indeed impressed by the passion of the many Rockwall residents who attended the meeting to speak out against the proposal, and encouraged to see that only seven of the about 30 Rockwall residents who spoke were in favor of the audience. And one of those seven was Rockwall County Criminal District Attorney Kenda Culpepper, who was there as a “resource witness” at the request of Mayor Pruitt.

Most of those who spoke against the ordinance made it clear that they felt it was discriminatory and unnecessary and not representative of the kind of city they want to live in. But when it came to the council members themselves, most insisted that it wasn’t about transgender people and that they were against is simply because it was “unenforceable” and represented an unnecessary government intrusion into the affairs of private businesses.

But it was Mayor Pruitt’s question toward the end of the meeting — when he asked council members if they would support an ordinance that addressed only public, multi-stall restrooms on city-owned property — that seemed to suggest the potty police debate is not over in Rockwall.

Transgender activist Nell Gaither of Trans Pride Initiative, who along with Trans-Cendence helped organize a protest outside Rockwall City Hall just before the council meeting, agreed. “My feeling is this might be back again, in a form that will be more acceptable to those who didn’t support it this time,” Gaither said Tuesday.

Pick up the Friday, May 6 issue of Dallas Voice to see our more in-depth report on the Monday night meeting.

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