Instead of a “bathroom bill,” the Texas House now is giving us Bathroom Light.
And as of this week, Fort Worth now has even more money at risk if the Texas Legislature doesn’t calm the Great Political Bathroom Panic.
A Carrollton Republican’s bill set to go before a House committee Wednesday would leave city nondiscrimination laws in place everywhere except bathrooms, showers and locker rooms, protecting LGBT equal-rights laws but punting to state law the politically volatile question of how transgender Texans decide bathrooms.
In most of Texas outside the 12 cities with LGBT equal-rights laws, nothing would change if House Bill 2899 were passed. Unlike Brenham Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst’s more punitive Senate Bill 6, it doesn’t fine governments up to $10,500 for not policing gender closely.
Until Houston politics got all wadded up over bathroom rights three years ago, breaches of peace were handled perfectly well under Texas’ disorderly conduct law, which prohibits entering or even peeking into a bathroom or locker room for a “lewd or unlawful purpose.”
But when that City Council passed a stiff anti-discrimination law protecting 15 classes including gender identity, evangelical pastors pushed back against what they called a “radical transgender agenda.”
The LGBT-bashing scared up enough votes to overturn the ordinance. It became a new political flashpoint for Texas evangelical conservatives.
But that in turn drew the attention of pro and college sports executives, concerned that corporate sponsors and patrons might face discrimination or gay-bashing in Texas.
It’s likely that we’ll be supportive of that bill. It doesn’t cross the line with us.
The Dallas Cowboys’ Austin-based lobbyist, Bill Miller, on House Bill 2899
North Richland Hills Sen. Kelly Hancock defended the Senate bill on Twitter, writing Texas’ economy should be “virtue/value-based.” But North Carolina tempered its version in order to keep NCAA major college championship events.
As of Tuesday, we care more what the NCAA thinks.
In 2022, the “March Madness” basketball playoffs will start with games at Fort Worth’s $450 million new Dickies Arena on Montgomery Street. The NCAA women’s gymnastics championships are booked for four years beginning in 2019.
The basketball games alone will bring in about $3.5 million.
House Bill 2899 is scheduled for a 10:30 a.m. State Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday.
Arlington and AT&T Stadium have even more to lose if an overly hostile LGBT-bashing enforcement bill were passed.
The Dallas Cowboys’ Austin-based lobbyist, Bill Miller, told The Dallas Morning News the new House bill “doesn’t cross the line.” He described it as “no harm, no foul.”
Not surprisingly, Gov. Greg Abbott hinted he prefers the House bill as “thoughtful.”
The Texas Legislature calls this a consolation prize.