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Business Leaders Join Advocates Opposing Texas Bathroom Bill

The fight over a bill in the Texas state Legislature that would restrict bathroom access for transgender residents is ramping up, with more than 50 business leaders joining advocates to oppose the plan days after the state Senate passed the measure.

In this Oct. 21, 2015 photo, a man urges people to vote against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance outside an early voting center in Houston. AP Photo by Pat Sullivan.

Leaders from some of the most well-known companies in Texas and the nation – Shell Oil Company, ConocoPhillips, Accenture, and Tesco Corp. – laid out their concerns about what’s known as the “bathroom bill” (SB3), including threats it posed to the state’s economic health and reputation, in a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott.

“We support diversity and inclusion, and we believe that any such bill risks harming Texas’ reputation and impacting the state’s economic growth and ability to create new jobs,” business leaders wrote in the letter. “Any bill that harms our ability to attract top talent to Houston will inhibit our growth and continued success – and ultimately the success of our great state.”

A leading supporter, however, has said the bill is “about privacy and protection.” Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst also said her bill would stop a man from “saying today I feel like a female and I have the right to go into these intimate spaces.” Republican Gov. Abbott supports the measure and indicated there is growing support for the move.

The bill would require transgender people to use the bathroom that matches the sex on their birth certificate, including in public schools.

“Were SB3 to become law, transgender Texans would be left with the impossible choice between risking their personal safety and dignity to comply with the state mandate that they use the wrong facility, or breaking the law. That’s not a choice at all: it’s an expulsion from every-day life,” Kali Cohn, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas, wrote on the organization’s blog.

As the debate over the bill intensifies, it’s future remains uncertain. While the bill now moves to state House, the original Senate version died earlier this year without a vote.

This year, Texas has emerged as a hotspot in the divisive political discourse that has gripped and divided the nation since Trump won the presidential election last November. Earlier this year, for example, the state enacted a new law that will target cities, towns and sheriffs that don’t cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

Then last week, the Trump administration signaled potentially major shifts on LGBT policies that quickly drew criticism. President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that the “United States Government will not accept or allow……Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”

“Trump’s tweets seek to perpetuate the most explicit discriminatory federal policy against trans people,” The National LGBTQ Task Force wrote in a statement. “This is not a time to go backwards on a well-researched decision already made at the highest levels of the military.”

The Justice Department also told the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in court papers that sexual orientation is not covered by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The law bans workplace discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Paul Nyhan is the senior writer for Equal Voice News, which is published by Marguerite Casey Foundation

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.) 

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