The author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is declining to attend the Texas Legislature’s celebration of authors event, saying the reason is because of proposed legislation that would prevent transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity.
Rick Riordan, who was born in San Antonio and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, wrote on Twitter on Friday afternoon that he turned down the Legislature’s invitation on Friday due to Senate Bill 6, which Texas Republicans announced on Thursday. The celebration of authors event is slated for March 8.
“If they want to honor me, they could stop this nonsense,” Riordan said in his tweet.
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Riordan's tweet is one of the first whiffs of potential fallout as the Legislature considers Senate Bill 6. The measure would require transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on “biological sex” and would pre-empt local nondiscrimination ordinances that allow transgender Texans to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, the organizer for the author event, said he knew Riordan declined the invitation but did not know the reason until he looked on Twitter on Saturday morning.
“I saw his tweet and was like 'Darn, this is a bummer’,” Villalba said.
Villalba said that the Legislature often recognizes Texans’ contributions to arts and culture. However, even with the controversy over SB 6, Villalba said the two issues shouldn’t be conflated. He said he recognized that bills like SB 6 have people worried about the impact it could have on other industries in Texas. But he added that the Legislature was simply trying to honor the authors. After all, he said, if he chose creative works based on the creator’s politics, he wouldn’t see many movies or read many books.
“I don’t want to challenge [Riordan's] belief system,” Villalba said. “I appreciate that this is his way of making his statement about what has occurred. My only disappointment is we can’t show him how much we appreciate his great work.”
The office of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is leading the charge on the proposed legislation with Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, did not immediately respond to a request to comment for this article. Patrick has said his support for the legislation is based on privacy and safety concerns.
The Texas Association of Business — a top business lobby group that regularly sides with conservatives — has warned that anti-LGBT legislation, including SB 6, could lead cost the state between $964 million and $8.5 billion.
North Carolina lawmakers passed their own legislation last year in response to a Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance that extended protections to transgender residents who use public facilities based on their gender identity.
The North Carolina legislation not only eliminated Charlotte’s ordinance but also nullified local ordinances that extended protections for LGBT residents. That legislation also kept transgender people who haven’t had surgery or legally changed their gender markers on birth certificates from having the legal right to use a public restroom that matches their gender identity.