For the past weeks, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. has been at the center of criticism for his support of Texas senate bill 6, a bill that would criminalize transgender Texans from using public facilities that match their gender identity. With tensions high between the senator and his LGBTQ constituents, Sen. Lucio’s recognition as “Border Texan of the Year” could not come at a more inappropriate time.

Hundreds of his constituents have called his offices expressing their disappointment in the senator, traveled to Austin to testify against the senate bill 6 twice this month, and protested outside of Pharr City Hall during a rally called “#956vsSB6.”

Equality Texas, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, explains what SB 6 will do:

“Transgender Texans, like all Texans, need to use public restrooms and other gender-segregated spaces without fear for their safety or security. SB 6 undermines that need by nullifying present ordinances and forbidding future ordinances that provide transgender nondiscrimination protections in bathrooms; forbidding schools to allow transgender students to use multi-stall restrooms if the facilities don’t match their birth certificates; forcing state agencies to develop anti-transgender bathroom policies for buildings in their possession; and penalizing schools that don’t comply with the bill, forcing them to cough up thousands of dollars in fines. It additionally mandates that all crimes committed in bathrooms or changing facilities be raised by one degree, moving the focus from the severity of a crime to the location of it. This legislation is a discriminatory attack on transgender Texans and those that would support them, under the guise of ‘protecting women.’”

RGV LGBTQ residents outside of Pharr City Hall on March 5

Constituents in Lucio’s district have traveled to Austin twice in March to fight the bill: On March 7 to testify against the bill and on March 20 to visit with their representatives.

During the oral testimonies on March 7, those who testified against the senate bill outnumbered those in support by a 3:1 ratio.

Upon returning to the Rio Grande Valley from Austin after the hearing, the group spoke during a Hidalgo County Democratic Party meeting on March 8 where they urged the party to denounce Lucio’s support of SB 6. That same day, the party unanimously passed a resolution against the bill and urged Sen. Lucio to change his mind.

Still, Sen. Lucio ignored his constituents’ and local party’s voices and supported the bill. He is the only democrat to do so. On March 15, the bill passed the Texas Senate 21 to 10.

According to the senator’s website, Glen E. Roney, chairman of the Border Texan of the Year Committee, stated, “Sen. Lucio has done an awfully good job representing the Rio Grande Valley for the past 40 years. This is especially evident in his work with both sides of the aisle and in particular, the issues that he has chosen to support, and not support, that positively impact not only the entire Rio Grande Valley but also, the entire State of Texas. Sen. Lucio is well deserving of this honor.”

But how, exactly, does the senator’s support of SB 6 positively impact the state or the Rio Grande Valley?

SB 6 mirrors North Carolina’s HB 2, known as the “bathroom bill.” HB 2 took a toll on North Carolina’s economy, with large businesses pulling out millions of dollars and many jobs from the state, including NCAA who threatened to deny the state the chance to host any of 133 NCAA events over the next 6 years unless they repealed HB 2. Companies like PayPal and SalesForce also spoke up against HB 2.

Proponents of SB 6 claim that the bill will protect the “privacy of women” and keep public facilities safe from sexual assault. But advocates who work to help sexual assault survivors have stated time and time again that transgender individuals pose no threat to the safety of the public. During a rally outside of the capitol on March 20, Grey’s Anatomy Sara Ramirez with the ACLU of Texas said that the biggest threat to public safety, according to data, is “cisgender men,” not transgender individuals.

“[T]his bill [is] nothing more than a political ploy to appease certain narrow-minded constituencies at the expense of some of the most vulnerable and marginalized people in society. – Rep. Eddie Lucio III, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr.’s son

In fact, there have been no cases of transgender individuals harming anyone in public facilities despite them using public bathrooms and other gendered facilities for years. But there are, ironically enough, conservative legislators who support these so called bathroom bills who have been exposed for being sexual predators, such as Sen. Ralph Shortey of Oklahoma.

Even Sen. Lucio’s son, Rep. Eddie Lucio III, admitted that there is no evidence that supports SB 6 is really about public safety in a Facebook post:

“On this issue, I respectfully disagree with my father and I oppose SB 6. I believe this bill to be nothing more than a political ploy to appease certain narrow-minded constituencies at the expense of some of the most vulnerable and marginalized people in society. Our office has yet to be provided any evidence demonstrating that the transgender community provides a security risk to others in bathrooms. The people that this bill targets are just trying to live their lives and have a safe place to use the restroom.”

The senator was chosen by the Border Texan of the Year Committee in January. The event will take place on Friday, March 24 at the McAllen Convention Center at 6:30 PM. A reservation for a table for eight costs $1,250 and proceeds will be donated to a non-profit of the senator’s choice.

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