Despite hours of testimony against it, a bill legalizing discrimination against transgender people got approval from a Texas committee on Friday and now heads to the full Senate for a potentially catastrophic vote.
The law, approved by the State Affairs committee on an 8-1 vote, is being considered during a special session of the legislature called by Gov. Greg Abbott. If approved, Texas could face large-scale backlash in the form of boycotts by LGBT people and allies, including performers, corporations and sports teams. After North Carolina passed a law that stopped transgender people from using the bathroom in state buildings, it lost nearly $4 billion in investment, according to studies.
The Texas Tribunereports that the heads of tourism for LGBT-friendly cities Dallas, Austin and San Antonio predicted massive losses. Dallas officials told lawmakers the city expects $1 billion lost in hotel bookings, Austin predicts the law would harm the South By Southwest festival, San Antonio expects jobs and contracts to disappear.
"These bills would harm the state's reputation, its people and its economy," said the Human Rights Campaign's JoDee Winterhof in a statement.
"Encouraging discrimination against fellow Texans serves no one, and with Texas' largest employers opposed to SB 3, it is sure to cause a devastating economic panic," said Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD, in a statement after the committee's vote.
The state of California has already banned travel to Texas by state employees, meaning they cannot attend any conference held in the state. More states could follow suit. Pressure on LGBT allies to condemn the state's decision will only amplify the further the law moves ahead, with Equality Texas warning that the full Senate could vote as soon as Monday. Then the House must pass the law before it's sent to the governor for his signature.
Businesses see the problem coming. IBM took out a full-page ad against the law. CEOs of 14 major Texas employers -- including AT&T, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Kimberly-Clark, and Texas Instruments -- sent a letteropposing the measure because it "threatens our ability to attract and retain the best talent in Texas, as well as the greatest sporting and cultural attractions in the world." Tech execs from Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google have also stood up against the law.
The law makes it illegal for transgender people to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity whenever they're in a state building or a public school. The affect on children will be most acute. And Equality Texas estimates that include 13,800 students.
Some lawmakers have tried arguing the bill is merely intended to guard against sexual predators who don women's costumes to sneak into bathrooms -- something that's never happened. But what's called the bathroom bill -- Senate Bill 3 -- also bans schools from trying to protect transgender students because they're not already included in state anti-discrimination protection. The bill says schools "may not adopt or enforce an order, ordinance, policy, or other measure to protect a class of persons from discrimination."
Here's how local media covered the millions in economic impact the state has already felt just because of the special session debating the law:
[iframe https://interactive.tegna-media.com/video/embed/embed.html?id=2667801&type=video&title=Hundreds travel to Austin to debate the 'Bathroom Bill'&site=285&playerid=6918249996581&dfpid=32805352&dfpposition=Video_prestream_externalSSion=home height=360 width=640]