AUSTIN - Supporters and opponents of the state's controversial bathroom bill both held events Monday ahead of a committee hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning.
Senate Bill 6 (SB6), or the bathroom bill, will require people go by the sex on their current birth certificate when using bathrooms, locker rooms and showers in state buildings and public schools and universities.
"This is not an LGBT issue, it's not a transgender issue," said Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) during a news conference. "It's about preventing a free pass to sexual predators who are not transgender from being able to walk in any bathroom with any child or any woman anytime."
A new face joined the Republican Senators backing the bill, Democratic Senator Eddie Lucio (Brownsville).
"It is important that our schools manage and accommodate the differences in students in a way that provides a foundation of clear definitions of physical reality," Lucio said as he vowed to make sure the bill is just.
The Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, the first state to pass such a bill, was also standing with Patrick.
"This has never been about anything but privacy and safety and security for women and children," said Dan Forest (R).
Forest refuted reports that the bill has had a negative economic impact in North Carolina.
"The economy is booming. In fact, if you look at the most extreme instances of economic impact by the media and the universities and the people who come out and say this is the impact, that most extreme impact equates to one-tenth of one percent of our annual GDP," said Forest.
SB6 allows businesses to make and set their own bathroom policies. If an organization or businesses rent a state or school building, the state rules wouldn't apply. But Texas business leaders say the state's economy will take a hit if the bill becomes law.
"Event organizers that we've spoken to have told us 'we're not going to deal with that. That's too much of a hassle. We don't want any of our attendees to feel unwelcome or unsafe and so we're just going to bypass your city or your state if this legislation were to pass.' And that's why we're so opposed to it," said Phillip Jones, President & CEO of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau. "There are no carve outs. There are no exemptions. Discrimination is wrong, end of story."
Opponents say the bill is not only bad for business but discriminates against the transgender community.
In Austin, nearly two dozen events are already in jeopardy.
"We have 23 organizations that have proactively reached out to the Austin CVB and said 'if you pass this bill, we're going to have to leave,'" said Tom Noonan, President & CEO of the Austin Convention Center & Visitors Bureau. "Before we add the 23rd, that was worth $110 million."
Patrick said he expects the bathroom bill to pass through the committee and Senate quickly, but that he cannot speak for what the House will do or if Governor Greg Abbott supports the bill.
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