The Texas speaker of the House is trying to hold back right-wing attempts to pass a discriminatory bathroom bill, which could spark widespread boycotts of the state.
Politically, how far has the radical right gone, even in deeply red states like Texas? So far that the Lone Star state’s Republican speaker of the House recently warned that the movement, and its obsession with waging cultural wars, stands poised to do lasting damage to the state.
The current flashpoint in Texas is the special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott, where legislators continue to wrangle over a bill to regulate public restroom use based on a person’s biological sex at birth. The Texas Senate passed a bill last Wednesday. The House will likely take it up this week. Abbott supports the bill.
The unfolding drama is splitting Texas Republicans into two warring factions: traditional, big business conservatives versus social conservatives on the far right fringes. Speaker of the House Joe Straus stands firmly with big business in opposing the looming bathroom bill.
He even warned that if the bathroom bill isn’t stopped, the emboldened right wing will only make things worse for Texas.
“I hope this is a wake-up call to the business community not to take for granted that things won’t get out of hand here,” Straus recently said.
Corporate America has made it plain to Texas legislators that passing any kind of bathroom bill could hurt the state financially. IBM, AT&T, Texas Instruments, American Airlines, Apple, Facebook, Hewlett Packard, and others have all complained that passing a discriminatory bathroom bill will hurt their ability to recruit and retain top people. (IBM employs 10,000 people in Texas.)
Earlier this year, national press coverage of the controversial proposal generated more than $200 million in bad publicity for the state of Texas, according to a report released in May. That figure will only climb if the special session approves a final bill, prompting additional calls for boycotts of the state.
As Fortune magazine warned in May, “Texas Transgender Bathroom Bill Could Mean Economic Disaster.”
Just ask North Carolina.
Last year, after the state’s Republican governor signed a similarly discriminatory bill, HB2, the ensuing outrage resulted in a huge economic losses for the state, totaling nearly $4 billion. PayPal canceled plans to open a North Carolina facility, which would have added $2.6 billion to the state’s economy.
The Texas bill debate is already sparking cancellation threats by outside groups.
The American Association of Law Libraries recently announced it will no return to Texas for its annual conference if a bathroom bill is passed. “We cannot stand by as Texas enacts legislation that discriminates against this vulnerable community,” the group announced. Three thousand AALL members are gathering in Austin this month.