A Texas bill that would regulate bathroom access for transgender residents is getting assailed by an unlikely source.
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus broke with his fellow Republicans by condemning the state’s Senate Bill 6 on Wednesday. The Republican-backed legislation, considered a top priority by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, would require residents to use the public restrooms that correspond to their birth certificates.
Proponents of the bill have said it’s necessary to protect women and children from sexual predators. But LGBT advocates have blasted the bill as discriminatory against transgender residents, whose gender identity may not be reflected on their birth certificates.
The bill has also come under fire by business groups in Texas, who fear it could scare away investors and tourists from the state — a fear the House Speaker acknowledged during a conference for the Texas Association of Business, a leading opponent of the bill.
“Many people where I come from get concerned about anything that can slow down the overall job-creating machine,” Straus said.
“I think we should be very careful about doing something that can make Texas less competitive for investment, jobs and the highly skilled workforce needed to compete.”
Straus received a standing ovation from the business association, which estimated the “bathroom bill” could cost Texas as much as 185,000 jobs and $8.5 billion in economic losses.
Texas’s bill is modelled after North Carolina’s House Bill 2, a law that has generated a firestorm of controversy and cost the state an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars.
In denouncing the bill, Straus exposed a rift in Texas’s Republican Party, a mix of “traditional business-minded base and further-right grassroots activists,” as the Associated Press put it.
“We want Texas to keep attracting the best and the brightest. One way to maintain our economic edge is to send the right signals about who we are,” Straus said.
Another looming threat is the potential relocation of the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball Final Four games, set to be played in San Antonio. When North Carolina passed its own “bathroom bill” last year, the NCAA moved several championship events from the state, citing the state’s actions “concerning civil rights protections.”
The Final Four is expected to generate an economic impact of $234 million, according to a City of San Antonio report published this week.
The NCAA has not addressed the proposed legislation, and an NCAA spokeswoman did not return a request for comment. A representative for the Big 12 conference, which four Texas universities call home, told USA Today “we will track the bill’s progress through the legislature, and at an appropriate time discuss its impact with our member institutions.”
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