Metro Weekly

Texas Republicans promise to pass anti-LGBT laws next year

Lone Star State Republicans don't seem phased by any potential economic backlash from anti-LGBT bills

Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas (Credit: Daniel Mayer, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas (Credit: Daniel Mayer, via Wikimedia Commons.)

What most people have seemed to take away from the recent fight over North Carolina’s HB 2 is that the fallout from the controversial anti-LGBT law has caused the state much grief. But what Texas lawmakers have taken away is that they should pass a similar law in their own state.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Republican lawmakers have floated proposals for at least three separate bills relating to LGBT issues, two of which have similar provisions to those found in HB 2. They are:

  • A bill that would prevent any local government entity or municipality from passing its own laws that would allow transgender peoples like restrooms.
  • A bill that would prevent schools from passing their own policies that allow transgender people to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity.
  • A “religious freedom” bill that would prevent the state or government entity from impacting a person’s “free exercise of religion” — essentially allowing discrimination against LGBT people. A similar bill was proposed last year, but failed to pass.

State Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) plans to file the first bill, saying such decisions should be left under the purview of state and federal authorities. Shaheen and other social conservatives have criticized the Fort Worth Independent School District for setting its own guidelines for restroom use by transgender students. The guidelines, which the district adopted in May, are consistent with federal guidance from the U.S. Department of Education meant to ensure transgender students are treated equally, in accordance with their gender identity. The district later revised its own guidelines after outcry from parents and state officials who argued the district had overstepped its authority.

The most potent argument against any anti-LGBT bill is the economic impact it could have on the state, particularly if the business community takes a hard line against the legislation. Last year, when lawmakers considered similar bills, the Texas Association of Business opposed the bulk of them, because it feared they would damage the state’s reputation and adversely affect economic development and tourism.

But Shaheen is unswayed by those economic arguments, saying that Texas’ position as the twelfth-largest economy in the world, and the various economic benefits of setting up a business in the state, will insulate it from any threats by major corporations to pull out or reduce investments.

“If a company like Target wants to leave, I’ll help them pack and leave,” Shaheen said, referencing the company’s pro-transgender restroom policy. “But the Texas economy is going to do fine.”

But other lawmakers are worried, particularly Democrats, who have largely opposed anti-LGBT legislation.

“It’s a terrible idea. It’s completely unnecessary and it’s intentionally divisive,” Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie) said of Shaheen’s proposal. “This is something the state shouldn’t be involved in. It’s Austin big government that we are seeing more and more of from the Republican Party in Texas right now that voters don’t want.

“People trust their local officials at the local level to make local decisions,” said Turner. “They have put legislators in charge of making statewide decisions. We have tremendous state issues before us … and we need to focus on what our job is.”

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

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