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Texas Senate passes revived 'bathroom bill'

AUSTIN, Texas – A Texas version of a North Carolina-style "bathroom bill" targeting transgender people has again passed the state Senate but still faces obstacles.

After hours of deliberating, Senate Bill 3 passed with a 21-10 vote.

The vote Tuesday came a week into a special legislative session that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott called after GOP leaders deadlocked in May over efforts to restrict which bathrooms transgender people can use.

But there is no sign of cracks in that impasse. Republican House Speaker Joe Straus for months has denounced the bill and has only sharpened his criticism in recent weeks.

Straus has stood with Apple, Amazon and other big-name companies that call the efforts discriminatory and bad for Texas businesses. Social conservatives say the bill is a needed privacy safeguard.

Police chiefs from Texas' largest cities rallied against the bill outside the state Capitol before the vote.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and other law enforcement officers were in Austin on Tuesday to urge lawmakers to kill the controversial bill.

On the Capitol steps, Acevedo laid out his argument against the bill, saying there was no need for the law.

Top law enforcement officials from around the state came together and called the bill bad public policy. They said the bill is about politics, not public safety.

Officials said they were unable to find a single incident of a cross-dressing man assaulting a woman in a public restroom in their cities. They said passage of the bill would divert police from investigating real crime and that there are already laws against assault. 

"We have yet to find anything that this will prevent, because in truth, this is a purported solution that is in search of a problem. A nonexistent problem," Acevedo said. 

Senate Bill 3 would require transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates, instead of the gender with which they identify.

It's being advanced during a 30-day special legislative session that began Tuesday.

The same bill failed during the regular session that ended in May, amid outcry from top businesses and LGBT activists.

Speaker of the House Joe Straus said Monday he will do everything in his power to stop the bill from passing in the House.

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