By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - The attorney general of Texas has written the chief executive of Target to tell him that the state is concerned about the retailer's policy allowing shoppers and employees to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Tea Party Republican and evangelical Christian, said in an interview on Thursday that Target's policy could put girls and women at risk by allowing sexual predators and voyeurs in bathrooms.
Minneapolis-based Target last month became the first big U.S. retailer to weigh in on the bathroom policy issue, which is at the center of a national debate pitting social conservatives against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their supporters.
"I'm the chief legal and law enforcement officer in this state and I want to make sure our people are protected," Paxton told Reuters, adding that the letter was sent earlier this week.
"I want to know if they have policies to protect women and children," he said.
The letter said allowing men in women's bathrooms could lead to criminal activity and cause Texas lawmakers to take up the issue. It asked Target for details on how it would ensure safety.
Target said in a statement on Thursday that it is focused on creating a safe and secure shopping environment and its commitment to safety is unwavering.
The Republican-dominated Texas legislature does not hold a regular session until next year, meaning any new law regarding bathrooms is not imminent.
Paxton, who is facing federal and state charges for securities fraud, has waded into social issues previously concerning the LGBT community, telling Texas county clerks last year they could cite religious beliefs as reason to reject a U.S. Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage legal in the United States.
Clerks have ignored Paxton's guidance, which earned rebukes from legal experts who said Texas and all other states were bound to adhere to the Supreme Court's decision.
In March, North Carolina became the first U.S. state to require transgender people to use restrooms and changing rooms in schools and other public facilities that match their sex at birth rather than their gender identity.
Federal authorities told North Carolina's governor on Wednesday that the state law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act.
LGBT advocates have said the bathroom law is based in bigotry and raises false concerns about transgender people that have no basis in reality.
(Reporting by Jim Forsyth; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Dan Grebler)