Meeting Mentor Magazine

November 2017

Texas’s Controversial ‘Bathroom Bill’
To See Another Round of Debate

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has called a special session of the state’s legislative body, to begin July 18, to address several issues, including a continuation of debate around the contentious issue of regulating which bathrooms transgender people can use.

The Texas legislature meets biennially every odd-numbered year, with a regular season lasting a maximum for 140 days. The the last session ended May 29. Abbott called for the special session and revival of the “bathroom bill” (Texas Senate Bill 6) a week after the last try collapsed when social conservatives deadlocked with Republican moderates backed by business opponents such as Google, Facebook and the NFL.

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The effort to restrict access to bathrooms to gender on a birth certificate rather than gender identity was a legislative priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and created major infighting among Republican lawmakers during the regular legislative session, according to U.S. New & World ReportPatrick argued for passage of the bill as a privacy issue while House Speaker Joe Straus raised concerns about the measure’s potential for discrimination and its economic repercussions.

The American Society of Association Executives, the Professional Convention Management Association and the Meetings Mean Business Coalition, among other industry groups, have called the proposed legislation discriminatory towards transgender people. Many of the state’s largest convention bureaus have also voiced opposition to the bill. (See MeetingMentor’s cover story in the Spring 2017 issue.)

Abbott, who is up for re-election in 2018, is pushing for a bill that would make Texas the first state since North Carolina to require transgender people to use the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificates (as opposed to their gender identity) in government buildings and schools.

In March, North Carolina partially repealed its transgender bathroom law following economic and political fallout. The state is estimated to have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in cancelled conventions, concerts and sporting events. The North Carolina backlash has deterred most GOP governors from pursuing similar laws. — Regina McGee

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