After months of sparring over whether transgender Texans should be allowed to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Thursday officially set the legislative stage for the debate.
Following North Carolina’s lead, Texas Republicans announced Senate Bill 6, which would require transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on “biological sex” and would pre-empt local nondiscrimination ordinances that allow transgender Texans to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
“We know it’s going to be a tough fight,” Patrick said at a Capitol news conference announcing the bill. “But we know we’re on the right side of the issue. We’re on the right side of history. You can mark today as the day Texas is drawing a line in the sand and saying no.”
Patrick said his support for the legislation is based on privacy concerns, arguing that such policies allow men to enter women’s restrooms and locker rooms.
Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham, who will guide the bill through the upper chamber, said SB 6 would still allow for schools to accommodate transgender students on a case-by-case basis. But public entities that violate bathroom policies based on “biological sex” will be subject to a civil penalty imposed by the state attorney general.
It also appears to essentially exempt convention centers, stadiums and entertainment venues. The legislation would not apply if “if the location owned by a government entity is privately leased to an outside entity,” which is often the case for those sort of venues, Kolkorst said.
The exemption for “convention centers, stadiums and entertainment venues”, which was telegraphed a month ago, appears to be a sop to the business community, to try to buy their acquiescence. We’ll just have to see if it works. The direct attack on municipal anti-discrimination laws is not unexpected, but hasn’t been a focal point of the conversation before now. There will be much more to say about this as we go on, and believe me when I say I hope this all turns out to have been a tempest in a training potty, but for now I think the Lone Star Project has the best response:
“Any statement by Dan Patrick on the health and safety of Texas children should start with an apology for those he has let die on his watch.
“Since Patrick took office, nearly 800 Texas kids have died due to abuse or neglect while in the care of Child Protective Services. Patrick has served in five legislative sessions and has done nothing to help these Texas kids. Patrick’s top ten list of priorities specifically excludes fixing the failed Child Protective Services system.
“Dan Patrick’s only real priority is his political career. There’s no Texan he won’t exploit or neglect to advance himself.”
That’s what I’m talking about. I’ve expressed my concerns about the business community going weak if thrown a bone or two, so this response from the Texas Association of Business is encouraging.
Keep Texas Open for Business strongly opposed Senate Bill 6, calling out the just-filed “Texas Privacy Act,” as discriminatory, anti-business, and unnecessary legislation that is poised to have an immediate and detrimental impact on Texas’ economy. The bill is strikingly similar to North Carolina’s HB 2 law. Both pieces of legislation ban transgender people from using public school, university, and government building restrooms, and prohibit municipalities from passing transgender-inclusive public accommodations policies. The North Carolina law has cost the state nearly one billion dollars in lost economic revenue in just under 10 months.
“All Texans care deeply about safety and privacy, but Senate Bill 6 isn’t about either of those things,” said Chris Wallace, President of the Texas Association of Business (TAB), which leads the Keep Texas Open for Business coalition. “Senate Bill 6 is discriminatory and wholly unnecessary legislation that, if passed, could cost Texas as much as $8.5 billion in GDP and the loss of more than 185,000 jobs in the first year alone.”
“Our communities, our families and businesses across this state face a far more uncertain future if this kind of unnecessary regulation is enacted here. We cannot afford the real human consequences and staggering economic impact of slamming the door on the Texas’ history of openness, competitiveness, economic opportunity and innovation,” added Wallace.
Supporters of SB 6 claim its “unique to Texas”, but the legislation is fundamentally identical to the bathroom and municipal non-discrimination provisions in North Carolina’s HB 2. That law has resulted in companies like PayPal, Deutsche Bank and CoStar pulling jobs and planned investments from the state. Performers and sporting events also have fled North Carolina in the wake of HB 2 – with the NBA, NCAA, and ACC all pulling major championship events that were poised to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars to local economies.
“The so-called Texas Privacy Act won’t make restrooms any safer for men, women and children, and it will do far more harm to them than good. This legislation will needlessly jeopardize jobs, investment, innovation and tax revenue for our state, and it sullies our reputation as an open, inclusive and welcoming state. It is also wholly unenforceable and unsupported by any public safety evidence, and will create situations that invade the privacy of Texans from all walks of life.”
Wallace said that Keep Texas Open for Business and Texas Association of Business would welcome the opportunity to discuss meaningful ways the business community could work with state leaders to address serious, well-documented personal and public safety concerns like online predators, online privacy, and campus safety, while ensuring Texas does not enact discriminatory legislation that will spark statewide boycotts.
Now we need to convince these guys that they need to actually oppose the elections of legislators (and Lite Guvs) that support SB6, because as long as there are no consequences for these actions, there will be no changes in behavior. This is a good start, though.
Equality Texas is going to be at the forefront of this fight, so if you’re looking for a place to direct your activism efforts or dollars, go give them a hand – two immediate opportunities to Do Something are here and here. Texas Competes will also be in the mix on the business side. Patrick is way more out in front of this than either Joe Straus or Greg Abbott, and whatever happens I feel like we’re going to see this play out in next year’s Republican primaries. But let’s not get distracted – first this needs to be killed with fire. Do not sit idly by. Get involved and make your voice heard. Texas Monthly, the Chron, the Current, the Observer, the Austin Chronicle, Texas Leftist, and the DMN have more.