Meeting Mentor Magazine

October 2017

Efforts Mount To Tank Texas ‘Bathroom Bill’

Texas tourism and business leaders joined with meeting-industry advocates in a July 17 press conference on the steps of the Capitol in Austin, urging lawmakers to reject the “bathroom bill” being debated in a special session of the state’s legislature. The bill would require transgender people to use certain public restrooms that correspond with their sex at birth.

“Wholly unnecessary and highly discriminatory legislation is threatening Texas’ reputation as open and welcoming for businesses and families,” said Phillip Jones, president & CEO, VisitDallas, one of a half-dozen speakers at the press conference. “The economic costs are already being felt and they cut to the heart of our tourism industry, our small businesses and everyday Texans working to make ends meet.”

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Texas Welcomes All, a coalition of Texas CVBs and meeting-industry groups, reports that about $66 million in conventions have already been cancelled in Austin, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Arlington. An additional $205.2 million in convention business will cancel if a bathroom law passes, with another $1.5 billion in business on the fence, according to data tracked by the coalition.

With the special session of the legislators set to end on August 16, press reports say signs are very strong that the controversial legislation will not be enacted. The bill passed the Texas Senate, but leaders in the Texas House of Representatives have been opposed. Moreover, in recent weeks Texas business leaders from tech giants to oil executives have flooded lawmakers with letters saying the bill would put future jobs and billions of dollars at risk. Police chiefs from the state’s major cities have spoken out as well, saying the bill would be difficult to enforce and make Texas less safe.

Advocates of the Texas Privacy Act, the actual name of the bill, say that it is designed to protect the privacy and safety of women and children when they use bathrooms and locker rooms. “Bathrooms aren’t the problem,” countered Jennifer Staubach Gates, VisitDallas Board Member and Dallas City Council Member, speaking at the July press conference. “We have real problems with sexual assault and domestic abuse. Attempts to draw the focus away from those problems to bathrooms should be widely condemned.” She said there are already laws addressing “assault and wrongdoing in a bathroom, changing facility or anywhere else.”

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Opposing State Travel Bans

Some states, such as California, have banned government-funded travel to states with laws deemed discriminatory towards transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual people. That’s a move opposed by U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow.

In a recent letter to the editor of the New York Times, Dow, responding to the paper’s article, “Tax Dollars Become a Weapon on a New Front in Culture War,” said that restricting travel and boycotting destinations is not the solution.

“While bans and boycotts of this nature come from a well-intentioned place, the people who suffer are the workers whose livelihoods depend on travel to their region. Fewer visitors mean fewer jobs,” Dow wrote. “As Mark Twain said, ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.’ I believe in living by that maxim rather than punishing communities for the actions of politicians.” — Regina McGee

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