Metro Weekly

Texas businesswomen say they’re not props for anti-trans bathroom bill

Members of state's business community have led the opposition to proposed anti-LGBTQ bills

Visit San Antonio CEO Casandra Matej – Photo: Visit San Antonio.

“These bills have nothing to do with protecting my daughter or myself. There are already laws that keep us safe.”

–Casandra Matej, CEO of Visit San Antonio, speaking at a rally outside the Texas Capitol opposing a trio of proposed “bathroom bills” that would strictly enforce which restrooms transgender people are allowed to use in government or other public facilities.

Matej was one of two dozen businesswomen who spoke out against the proposed bills, which conservative Republicans have tried to force through the legislature. The rally was organized by the Texas Association of Business, reports the Times Record News.

Speakers at the rally attempted to counter arguments in favor of the anti-transgender measure that have been made by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), the sponsor of SB 3, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the leader of the Senate, who has made opposition to LGBTQ rights a cornerstone of his political identity as he eyes a possible run for higher office.

The Senate passed SB 3 early in the 30-day special legislative session, along with several other bills on conservatives’ political “wish list,” such as bills restricting abortion, making it easier to fire teachers, providing property tax relief, cracking down on alleged mail-in “ballot fraud,” and crippling labor unions by prohibiting union dues from being deducted from people’s paychecks.

Two other “bathroom bills” have been proposed in the House. One is similar to SB 3, in that it would limit transgender people to using only those restrooms or changing facilities that match their biological sex at birth, and would prohibit localities from enforcing nondiscrimination ordinances that provide protections for members of the LGBTQ community. The other, much smaller in scope, would simply place restrictions on restrooms and locker rooms in public schools.

The Texas Association of Business, as well as CEOs from major companies in both Dallas and Houston, have repeatedly told lawmakers they oppose any measures that could be viewed as discriminating against members of the LGBTQ community. They worry that major corporations, concerts, or conferences could choose to boycott the state if such legislation passes, thereby costing the state extra revenue and new economic opportunities.

Thus far, those business leaders have found a sympathetic ear in the form of House Speaker Joe Straus, who has promised to allow hearings on the bill but has thus far refused to allow a vote of the full House on any bathroom bill. Straus has previously said he sees such measures as “manufactured” and “unnecessary.”

Mellie Price, the co-founder of the Austin-based tech company The Capital Factory, was one of the other businesswomen at the rally. She told the Times Record News that she believed any bathroom bill would promote a backlash from voters, but particularly from women.

“We are tired of being used to promote discrimination,” Price said of women voters.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com