12 JAN 2017: You would think Texas politicians might have learned from the North Carolina fiasco, when the State lost business and major sporting events because of their bathroom policies. But no, Republican lawmakers, led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, have unveiled legislation that would, said Patrick, “protect businesses from government interference” by overturning local ordinances that allow transgender people to use the bathroom that conforms with their gender identity.
Dallas civic and tourism leaders warned of the consequences such legislation would have, as they urged politicians to stand down on the proposal that would require transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to their sex at birth.
The new bill will apparently protect privacy and promote safety by requiring public schools and universities, as well as government buildings, to designate bathrooms for use by people “according to their biological sex,” said the bill’s author, state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham.
So, this legislation would presumably have Caitlyn Jenner using the men’s room. Really?
Schools would be free to make accommodations, including single-occupancy bathrooms and locker rooms, for transgender students, she said.
What is the point?
What is it about people that requires them to humiliate others? Why would you insist that a human being who identifies as a certain sex be required to utilize the facilities of the opposite sex and potentially – almost certainly - open them to abuse and embarrassment? Why would you insist a transgendered teenager, already facing more alienation and pressure than most of us could imagine, be further ostracized and banished to a “single occupancy” locker room?
It is demeaning, it is unnecessary, and it is just wrong.
The issue has already stirred heated debate in the legislative session. A bestselling author has snubbed a state honour over the bill and a GOP legislator tried to implement the restrictions on bathrooms in the Capitol building. Texas has no transgender lawmakers, and state Rep. Matt Schaefer ultimately dropped the idea.
Schaefer's attempted rule change was a taste of the likely bruising fight ahead over bathroom regulations. The bill is similar to one passed last year by North Carolina that led to significant fallout, including companies cancelling expansion plans in the state, the NCAA moving championship games elsewhere and the NBA moving next month's All-Star Game out of Charlotte.
This is not speculation
Texas is often picked to host of major sporting events, including the Super Bowl in Houston next month, the NCAA women's Final Four in Dallas in March and the NCAA men's Final Four in San Antonio in 2018.
Phillip Jones, president of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he doesn't think leagues will hesitate to steer big sporting events elsewhere if Texas goes the way of North Carolina.
“This is not speculation. This is fact, based on what we've seen first-hand,” Jones said of the potential economic fallout.
“Leagues will not hesitate to look elsewhere if this bill or any other sort of bathroom bill passes legislation in Texas.
“We want and need to keep Texas welcome for all and open for business.” He said.
“This is why we've joined with other Texas convention and visitors bureau to launch Texas Welcomes All, a coalition of partners to ensure that we convey the message that Texas welcomes all.” Jones said.
The Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau previously supported a broad equal rights city ordinance that Houston voters rejected in 2015, when opponents campaigned on a message of “No men in women's bathrooms.”
The backlash has started
The proposed statewide bathroom restrictions have already exposed cultural rifts.
Rick Riordan, a former San Antonio teacher who wrote the popular “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” fantasy series, said in a tweet that he declined an honour from the Texas Legislature over “this nonsense.” At least two other Texas writers also rejected the same invitation to have their work ceremonially recognized by lawmakers in March.
“I'm just trying to recognize the great contributions of our Texas authors. I'm sad and disappointed that it's being used as a tool to make a public statement about this issue,” said Rep. Jason Villalba, a Dallas Republican who organized the event but seemingly does not ‘get’ that this is precisely the type of occasion that will be used to express people’s anger and distaste at the issue.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is driving Texas' anti-LGBT bill and is the powerful leader of the state Senate.
Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, meanwhile, has signalled his opposition to it. His welcome-back speech to lawmakers Tuesday included him pointedly saying, “This state should invite economic activity, not turn it away.”
Gov. Greg Abbott has not publicly endorsed the new bathroom restrictions, but reportedly has said a bathroom bill is, “something that needs to be looked at” and suggests a wait-and-see approach.
No, Governor – that’s not it. Consult your experts - your business and tourism leaders. The only thing you will see if you wait - is business and tourism heading elsewhere.
It’s time to act.