What You Need to Know About Texas' Bathroom Bill

Industry leaders are pushing against this legislation.

Alison Martin
08/09/2017
Dallas-Market-Center-against-Texas-bathroom-bill

Over the past few months, Texas lawmakers have been debating their own version of a bathroom bill. Similar to North Carolina's HB2, the Texas proposal would require any transgender individual to use the restroom according to the gender listed on his or her birth certificate or state ID when in local government or school buildings.

If you travel to Texas for Lightovation or the Total Home & Gift Market, it's important to know what is in the bill and how industry leaders in the home design space view it. Read on to learn what's in the bill and what industry leaders are saying.

What's in the bill?

According to a Tuesday report in The New York Times, the legislation passed by the Texas State Senate — Senate Bill 3 — would "require transgender people to use bathrooms in schools and local government buildings corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificates or state-issued identification cards." It would also prevent school districts and counties from passing anti-discrimination ordinances that would override this law and allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice.

Those supporting the legislation include social conservatives in the state legislature as well as Gov. Greg Abbott and the state's lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick. Conservative religious organizations have also voiced their support. Moderate Republicans in office, including Speaker of the House Joe Straus, as well as gay rights and business groups, are against it. 

Texas lawmakers originally introduced bathroom bill legislation back in January of this year, but they were unable to come to an agreement in May before being adjourned. A special legislative session was then called in July, which is where the bill is being debated now. Thus far, the bill passed the Senate, and it currently sits in the House.

Supporters of the bill say it protects women from being attacked in bathrooms, according to CBS News. They view the bill as a "privacy protection act." Supporters of North Carolina's similar HB2, which was partially repealed earlier this year, argued the current laws allow male predators to gain access to women and children in bathrooms by pretending to be transgender.

In Texas, laws already exist to punish individuals who commit or attempt to commit assault or voyeurism in bathrooms. At press time, no research exists that shows local anti-discrimination ordinances that allow transgender individuals to use the bathrooms of their choice lead to more attacks on women in bathrooms.

The industry's reaction

This week, Dallas Market Center announced its opposition to this bill.

“For six decades, our company has brought together buyers and sellers for the benefit of all participants from around the world,” said Cindy Morris, president and CEO of Dallas Market Center, in a released statement. “Today that reputation is under threat by Texas politicians who do not understand how easily customers and key industry organizations can make a choice to do business elsewhere nor how important it is to promote that Texas is open for business to everyone. We stand opposed to this unnecessary and reckless legislation.”

The market joined a coalition of law enforcement, business leadership, sports organizations and convention and visitors bureaus to oppose the legislation. Police chiefs from three of the five largest cities in the state recently conducted a press conference in opposition to the legislation. Leadership of local companies with a global presence including American Airlines, AT&T, Atmos Energy, The Beck Group, BNSF Railway, Celanese, Crow Holdings, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, EJ Smith Enterprises, Fluor, Kimberly-Clark, Southwest Airlines, Tenet Healthcare and Texas Instruments recently co-signed a letter expressing concern that the bills “would seriously hurt the state’s ability to attract new business, investment and jobs.”

Other industry leaders are also standing up against Texas' bill. Mitchell Gold, co-founder and chairman of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, expressed strong opposition to North Carolina's HB2, and he continues to speak out against legislation that discriminates against gay and transgender individuals.

“Texas State Senator, Lois Kolkhorst (R-18), who considers herself a devout Lutheran and attended Texas Christian University, introduced SB 3. Texas Senate Bill 3, which would bar schools from allowing transgender students to use the restroom of their choice and undercut municipal non-discrimination protections for transgender people in restrooms, locker rooms and athletic activities, is just one example of dangerous religious teachings seeping into state and local legislative processes," Gold says. "There are already laws that prosecute Peeping Toms or sexual harassment. Transgender kids need to be protected by adults. We do not need adults like Sen. Kolkhorst harassing innocent and vulnerable transgender teens.”

Few industry leaders have voiced support of the bill, but supporters outside the industry say privacy is a big concern.

“It's clear that whenever Texans get to decide, they overwhelmingly side with protecting privacy," Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values, said in a statement released by Abbott's office. "But when local governments and school boards are pressured by outside interests with deep pockets, the rights of individual Texans aren't always put first. That's why it is incumbent upon the Texas Legislature to act quickly to defend dignity and safety in our intimate spaces — especially in our public schools with the new school year quickly approaching and there being no resolution on this important issue."

 

Most recently, the Dallas Stars became the first professional sports team to oppose the bill. Top gas and oil companies have also come out against the bill. When North Carolina passed a similar bill in 2016, the state lost an estimated $3.7 billion in lost business, according to a study by The Associated Press. Given the business community's stance against this bill, it's possible Texas may face a similar substantial loss if it passes this bill.

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