‘Economic doom’? Texas Republicans gung ho about ‘bathroom bill’

by WorldTribune Staff, January 6, 2017

The Texas state Senate introduced legislation on Jan. 5 that would require residents to use the public bathroom or locker room according to their birth gender.

The “Texas Privacy Act” is “the right thing to do,” said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Houston Republican who oversees the state Senate. “The people of Texas elected us to stand up for common sense, common decency and public safety.”

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst introduce Senate Bill 6. /AP
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst introduce Senate Bill 6. / AP

There were instant comparisons of Texas’s measure, known as Senate Bill 6, and North Carolina’s “bathroom bill”, House Bill 2.

Critics said, if the bill passes, Texas should prepare to face the same kinds of boycotts and external pressure that North Carolina did last year.

Patrick noted that Houston voters in 2015 defeated an equal rights ordinance designed to protect gay and transgender residents and no problems came of it. He also downplayed possible economic ramifications, adding that Houston is hosting this year’s Super Bowl.

“The economic doom?” Patrick asked. “The Super Bowl is teed up for 5:30 p.m. on February 7.”

After North Carolina’s law went into effect, corporations, entertainers and the NCAA backed out of events in the state to avoid being seen as endorsing discrimination.

The Texas Association of Business, the largest business lobbying group in the state, says approving Senate Bill 6 and other anti-gay rights proposals could cost the Lone Star state up to $8.5 billion and 100,000-plus jobs.

Senate Bill 6 sponsor Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, a Republican from rural Brenham, said the bill won’t create a “bathroom police” and will allow anyone to lodge complaints upon seeing something in public restrooms that makes them uncomfortable. She added the bill was written “not to start a controversy but to end one.”

Rebecca L. Robertson, the ACLU’s legal and policy director, said in a statement that the legislation is “unnecessary, discriminatory and inconsistent with the constitutional value of equal protection for all. Make no mistake — the invidious intent of SB6 is to deny transgender Texans the ability to participate in public life.”

Texas led a 13-state coalition that successfully sued to block an Obama administration order from last year requiring public schools nationwide to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice. That effort means “states are now free to enact legislation of their choosing to protect privacy,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement on Jan. 5.

Lawmakers in at least two other states, Virginia and Kentucky, have introduced similar bills.