Less than a year after the sports and entertainment industries turned their backs on North Carolina for passing its so-called bathroom bill, Texas’ lieutenant governor on Thursday helped unveil a legislative proposal that has much of the same intent as North Carolina’s law but appears to include the potential for exceptions for special events.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a conservative Republican and president of the Texas Senate, has been pushing for legislation he said would protect women and children by ensuring that transgender people would have to use public restrooms and locker rooms assigned to their "biological sex" on their birth certificate.
The Texas bill (SB6) contains language that would appear to make it possible for a private organization to determine the bathroom-usage rules at public facilities they rent — the situation that occurs when, for instance, the NCAA signs an agreement to hold the Final Four at a facility such as the Alamodome, which is owned and operated by the City of San Antonio.
Specifically, the bill states that a “private entity that leases or contracts to use a building owned or leased by" a public entity “is not subject to a policy developed under” the bill. In addition, the bill says that the state and various localities “may not require or prohibit a private entity that leases or contracts to use a building owned or leased by” a public entity “from adopting a policy on the designation or use of bathroom or changing facilities located in the building.”
The timetable on when the bill could pass is uncertain but Patrick labeled it a "top priority."
"This issue is not about discrimination — it's about public safety, protecting businesses and common sense," Patrick said in a statement, adding in his news conference Thursday, "we're on the right side of history. You can mark today as the day Texas is drawing a line in the sand and saying no."
The NCAA made an emphatic statement against North Carolina's HB2 in September when it removed all of its championship events from North Carolina, stating the bill is contrary to the association's overall initiative for inclusion. That move, the NBA's decision to relocate its All-Star game form Charlotte plus numerous event cancellations (including a Bruce Springsteen concert), reportedly has cost the state close to $4 million. Former Gov. Pat McCrory was not re-elected.
Most notable among upcoming NCAA championship events to be held in Texas is the women's Final Four in Dallas on March 31 and April 2. The men's Final Four is scheduled for San Antonio in 2018. The Football Championship Subdivision holds its championship game Frisco, Texas, annually.
NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn told USA TODAY Sports the association had no immediate comment on the bill's introduction.
Hudson Taylor, executive director and founder of Athlete Ally, an organization dedicated to ending discrimination through the sports world, argues that the accommodation is masquerading a big-picture transphobic policy that he believes the NCAA and other organizations will see past.
"SB6 in Texas, regardless of any workaround, would not make (a safe environment) possible — namely because any fan or athlete attending a sporting event is also going to be required to eat somewhere, sleep somewhere," Taylor said. "More than anything it's about the larger transphobic message sent. A lot of these anti-trans efforts work under the guise of safety for women and children when statistically that doesn't hold up. In reality, there's way more trans women killed each year and states requiring trans people to use a different restroom creates an atmosphere that's very overtly putting the trans community in harm's way."
After the NCAA's move against HB2, the Atlantic Coast Conference quickly followed suit. Should the NCAA take similar action with SB6, the same domino effect might occur with the Big 12.
“The Big 12 Conference is aware of the filing of Senate Bill 6 in the Texas State legislature," said Bob Burda, the league's associate commissioner for communications. "We will track the bill’s progress through the legislature, and at an appropriate time discuss its impact with our member institutions.”
Contributing: Steve Berkowitz of USA TODAY Sports; and John C. Moritz of the Caller Times in Corpus Christi, Texas, part of the USA TODAY Network.