Texans voted against hate on Tuesday.
The author of an anti-trans “bathroom bill” suffered a surprise defeat in his bid for reelection to the Texas House of Representatives. Republican incumbent Ron Simmons lost by 2.2 percentage points in the race for House District 65. Michelle Beckley, a Democrat, won by 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent.
Simmons was one of the lead proponents of a House bill which would have prevented transgender people from using public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity in schools and government buildings.
SB 6, the Senate version of that proposal, was defeated following a July 2017 special session specifically designed to force it through the Texas Legislature.
Although Simmons has held the Denton County seat since 2013, reports note turnout was unusually high. More than 58 percent of registered voters in the Dallas suburban district cast a ballot in the election. Many polling places stayed open past 7pm to meet the unusually high demand.
The historic turnout led to a blue wave in the Texas House, even despite Beto O’Rourke’s slim loss to Ted Cruz in the U.S. Senate race.
In North Texas, five Democratic women won election to the lower house of the legislature. Across the state, Democrats flipped 12 House seats that had previously been held by conservative lawmakers.
That marks the biggest Texas House pickup for either party in eight years.
As the Texas Tribune reported, the leftward shift in the legislature will make it difficult for conservatives to pass another bill like SB 6 in the future. When the lawmaking body reconvenes for the 2019 session, Republicans will see their 95-55 majority cut down to just 16 seats.
With Speaker Joe Straus declining to seek reelection, his replacement may, thus, need Democratic support to cross the 76-vote threshold necessary for election to House leadership.
But declining margins in the Texas House are unlikely to stop conservatives from targeting trans people.
Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), the author of SB 6, confirmed to the anti-LGBTQ group Texas Values that she would push another “bathroom bill” next year. The conservative legislator claimed the alleged problem of “men in women’s bathrooms” is the “women’s rights issue of our time.”
“The only way that you fail is to not try,” Kolkhorst said in Sept. 2017.
Gov. Greg Abbott, who handily won re-election on Nov. 6, claimed the issue is not on his “agenda” in 2019 but notably declined to say whether he would sign anti-trans legislation if it crossed his desk.
Lupe Valdez, the openly queer candidate he beat, vowed to oppose such a bill if elected. She lost by 13 points.
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