Texas is yet another state whose GOP-led legislature has moved to pass a so-called “bathroom bill,” termed the “Privacy Protection Act” or Senate Bill 6, that would enforce gender policing in the use of public facilities. While this fad has arisen recently in various states, the process in Texas has undergone greater scrutiny of late given that Houston is set to host the Super Bowl a week from now.
The similar HB2 bill in North Carolina last year drew widespread condemnation and prompted both the NBA and NCAA to cancel events that had been scheduled in the state. Local business groups now fear that the same reaction could lead to several high-profile sporting events in Texas suffering the same fate, including the NCAA women’s and men’s Final Four championship events, the former slated for this spring in Dallas and the latter in San Antonio next year.
The cost of the so-called “bathroom bill,” which bars transgender people from using restrooms that match their gender identity, could run as high as $8.5 billion and result in a loss of 185,000 jobs in the first year alone, according to the Texas Association of Business, a conservative group that is the state’s leading employer organization.
“It would be a blot on the reputation of the state of Texas, which many of us have been working to change,” said Annise Parker, who as Houston’s mayor from 2010 to 2016 was the first openly lesbian candidate elected to lead a major U.S. city. Parker, who served as mayor when Houston won hosting duties for Super Bowl LI to be played on Feb. 5, said by just filing the measure, which opponents decry as discriminatory, there has been damage to the image of the state that serves as headquarters for more than 50 Fortune 500 companies ranging from Exxon Mobil to grocer Whole Foods.
The effort to approve the bill has been championed by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who has dismissed opponents’ concerns about economic repercussions, and is expected to pass in the Texas Senate. However, the picture is less clear in the House of Representatives, whose Speaker Joe Straus has expressed hesitation about any legislative acts that could damage the sizeable Texas economy.