Ignoring how North Carolina's anti-LGBTQ HB2 cost the state millions in lost revenue and jobs—while tarnishing its reputation nationwide—conservative lawmakers in at least six states are issuing their own salvos against the transgender community with similar "bathroom bills" whose "invidious intent" is to discriminate and deny fundamental rights.
The bill unveiled Thursday in Texas would overturn non-discrimination ordinances currently providing critical protections in several of the state's major cities and would require all Texas residents to use bathrooms or locker rooms that correspond with their biological sex, rather than their gender identity. Dubbed the "Privacy Protection Act," SB2 is backed by lieutenant governor Dan Patrick, who introduced it at a news conference on Thursday by quoting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent on things that matter,'" Patrick said, quoting King. "This legislation...is unquestionably one of the things that matters."
But Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin had a different interpretation, echoing other advocacy groups in calling the bill "a dangerous, politically-motivated assault on the rights of [Patrick's] own constituents."
"Patrick and his anti-LGBTQ friends in the legislature have clearly learned nothing from the self-inflicted damage caused by North Carolina's discriminatory HB2 law and want to throw away $8.5 billion in revenue from lost visitors, businesses, sports leagues, and major entertainment groups," Griffin continued. "If lawmakers vote to discriminate against transgender people, Texas will be closed for business."
The $8.5 billion figure comes from a 2016 study (pdf) released by the Keep Texas Open for Business coalition and commissioned by the Texas Association of Business, which found the economic impact of enacting a so-called "bathroom bill" and a "religious freedom" bill in the state would amount to $8.5 billion and a loss of 185,000 jobs.
Indeed, Salon notes: "With an economic output of $1.64 trillion in 2015, Texas has far more to lose than North Carolina ever did. Texas has the second largest economy of any state in the nation, while North Carolina's 2015 GDP was $506 billion."
In vowing to veto similar legislation should it reach his desk, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) also cited the potential economic fallout. "Governor McAuliffe has been clear that he will veto any bill that restricts the rights of Virginians based on sexual orientation or gender identity," McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said in a written statement following this week's introduction of a bill to regulate transgender people's use of public restrooms. "As we saw in North Carolina, these bills don't just hamper civil rights—they kill jobs."
According to the ACLU of Virginia, which "vehemently opposes" the so-called "Physical Privacy Act," the measure "would require anyone who wants to avoid harassment or an interaction with a government official to carry a copy of their birth certificate on their person anywhere they may need to use a restroom on state property."
Moreover, the Virginia bill "goes further than the North Carolina measure in one regard," the Washington Post reported. "It requires school principals to notify a parent if a student asks to be treated as a member of the opposite sex—whether by being allowed to use a different bathroom or being addressed by a different name or pronoun."
As Jesse Singal wrote for New York magazine:
For a school to potentially out a trans or gender-questioning child to his family could have absolutely catastrophic consequences for that child. It could literally be deadly. This isn't an exaggeration: Queer kids of all stripes with unsupportive families often have an extremely difficult time at home, and in the worst cases they face awful physical abuse. That's part of the reason why surveys of LGBT high-schoolers reveal so many mental-health and other issues. So to force schools schools to notify parents or caretakers that their kids may be trans or gender questioning could put those kids at severe risk—it's a profound violation of the responsibility schools have to keep their students safe.
Virginia Public Radio reports that the bill is "unlikely to go anywhere."
Other states that have introduced or pre-filed anti-trans bills restricting access to facilities for their 2017 legislative sessions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, include Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, and Washington.
Time magazine reports:
Advocates expect the bills to come in three main forms, as they did last year: bathroom bills, religious freedom bills, and preemption bills that keep cities from enforcing nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people. "Lawmakers are throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks," says Sarah Warbelow, the legal director for the Human Rights Campaign. "We do anticipate a continued onslaught."
Though the language of the bathroom bills differs—with Alabama's requiring an attendant outside any multi-sex bathrooms "to monitor appropriate use" and Washington's protecting the right to restrict access based on "preoperative...genitalia"—the measures are part of the same culture war that has been growing since the same-sex marriage question was settled by the Supreme Court.
In sum, wrote ACLU staff attorney Chase Strangio this week, "the humanity of trans people is being attacked. But in the face of these attacks, trans people have shown our resilience. If what these lawmakers are asking is that we simply not be trans, as writer Imogen Binnie once explained, 'most trans people have tried that and it didn’t work.' Our lives and identities are real, and we are not going away."