A group of more than 150 artists, musicians and actors have signed an open letter opposing the so-called “bathroom bill” currently under consideration in the Texas Legislature.
The letter singles out Senate Bill 6, which would mandate that transgender Texans use bathrooms, locker rooms or other sex-segregated spaces in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on “biological sex” instead of their gender identity. It does not control what private businesses or entities can and can’t do.
The bill would also block local nondiscrimination ordinances that guarantee transgender people the right to use the facilities that matches their gender identity. The letter also mentions a similar measure filed this session, House Bill 1362.
In the letter published on Valentine’s Day, Lady Gaga, Whoopi Goldberg, Carrie Brownstein, Dallas’ Annie Clark, known as St. Vincent, Laverne Cox, a transgender woman, and more say they’re watching Texas. While they say they love Texas' people and culture and their collective experiences visiting the state, they’re “deeply troubled” about the legislation currently under consideration.
In the letter, the community of artists focuses on the proposed bathroom restriction, saying it would “criminalize and restrict the simple act of a transgender person using the restroom that aligns with their gender identity — a denial of basic human dignity."
This isn’t the first group to make its concerns about the bill known to the public. Months before any bills were filed, more than 300 small businesses in Texas issued a statement denouncing the possible anti-LGBT legislation in October. The businesses fear similar “economic damage” North Carolina experienced with its own “bathroom bill,” known as HB2.
The Texas Association of Business and visitors bureaus across the state say legislation like Senate Bill 6 will hurt tourism because people could Texas as a discriminatory place.
Days after the Super Bowl in Houston, the National Football League raised the prospect of Texas’ bill affecting future championship football games in the state. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has championed the legislation well before the start of the session, said there’s no conflict with the NFL’s statement and the bill.
House Speaker Joe Straus says he has business concerns as well. "I think we should be very careful about doing something that could make Texas less competitive for investments, jobs and the highly-skilled workforce needed to compete," Straus told the Texas Association of Business, adding that it’s his personal view.
Patrick says it’s a privacy issue and a safety issue – the bill is called the Privacy Protection Act. Both Patrick and the bill's author, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, said it's intended to keep men from using women's restrooms under the guise of being transgender. Opponents argue there is largely no evidence of that happening.
Gov. Greg Abbott has been largely silent — it was not one of his top legislative priorities this session.