Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said pursuing so-called "bathroom bills" that limit access of public restrooms and locker rooms based on gender assigned at birth is no longer a priority.
Abbott is running against former sheriff Lupe Valdez (below), the first openly gay major party candidate for governor in state history, and the two faced off in their first and only debate Friday night, where the topic was one of the key issues raised.
The governor was asked about pushing for such legislation, which failed to pass during a special session he called last year, amid backlash from LGBTQ rights advocates as well as the business community, which feared a boycott similar to the one faced by North Carolina after it passed its anti-LGBTQ law HB2, which has since become HB142.
Even Republican Texas House Speaker Joe Straus came out against the legislation, saying, "I don't want the suicide of a single Texan on my hands."
Abbott at first dodged the question, instead highlighting his agenda, and when pressed about "bathroom bills," which were noticeably absent from his list, he said it was "not on my agenda."
However, he wouldn't go so far as to say he wouldn't sign such a bill if it got to his desk.
"I won't sign hypothetical bills. All I can tell you is what my agenda is," he responded.
"There is a continued fear-mongering," Lopez responded. "And I don't believe in laws that start out with fear."
Abbott continued by alluding to the importance of keeping Texans and their families safe, and noted he has been endorsed by law enforcement officials across the state.
Watch the governor give his response to the question below.
Proponents of bills limiting transgender bathroom access have claimed the laws are needed to protect women and girls as their main talking point. A recent study from the Williams Institute found what those on the other side of the debate have been arguing all along: That there's no relation between trans people accessing public bathrooms and crimes occurring in said bathrooms.
In fact, the evidence points to the opposite, that crimes are more likely to occur when transgender people are forced to use bathrooms not matching their identity and appearance.
Valdez hit out at Abbott over his priorities while criticizing his response to Hurricane Harvey, saying, "He calls a special session for bathrooms, but does not call a special session when people are dying."
Abbott's defensiveness on the issue is to be expected. He would be foolish to lead with a policy point for which he has so far failed to find success. But his refusal to say he wouldn't sign such legislation if given the chance, coupled with his clear track record of supporting such laws, means Texans shouldn't get too comfortable as long as he is in the Governor's Mansion.
Watch the full debate between Abbott and Lopez below.
Click the graphic above to learn about LGBTQ candidates running for office nationwide.