Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels)
Patrick Michels

Donna Campbell Says ‘Bathroom Bill’ Needed to Keep Texas a ‘Beacon of Hope’


Above: Senator Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels

Senator Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, who represents portions of San Antonio, said she isn’t worried about the prospect of the Alamo City losing the 2018 Final Four if the Legislature passes an anti-transgender “bathroom bill” next year.

The NCAA recently moved the 2017 edition of its Final Four men’s basketball championship out of Charlotte in response to North Carolina’s anti-LGBT House Bill 2. Nevertheless, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has made a similar bill one of his top priorities for 2017.

During a panel discussion about San Antonio issues in the Legislature hosted by the Texas Tribune on Friday, Campbell expressed support for Patrick’s proposal and dismissed concerns about potential economic backlash. San Antonio officials estimate the 2018 Final Four will bring in $75 million to the city.

“I’d like to see Texas values not hijacked for the sake of football, basketball,” Campbell said, adding that while the state has the 10th-largest economy in the world, that’s not because of one event.

“We have got a great state, provides hope for many, that’s why they’re coming here all the time, and we’ve got a business climate that everybody comes to,” Campbell added. “But we do have to draw the line to maintain those values that not only keep Texas, but keep the United States, that beacon of hope.”

Campbell said she believes businesses, churches and nonprofits should set their own rules for restroom access, adding that they should be “unencumbered” by local nondiscrimination ordinances. She called that principle “local liberty” as opposed to “local control,” but said businesses that allow trans people to use restrooms based on their gender identity should “put the signage out there so it’s clear to the public.”

Campbell opposed San Antonio’s 2013 nondiscrimination ordinance, calling it an attempt to “to criminalize faith and traditional values of the majority of Texans.” She also authored a sweeping “religious freedom” amendment to the Texas Constitution in 2015 that critics said would have legalized discrimination against LGBT people.

Last Tuesday, House Speaker Joe Straus said Patrick’s “bathroom bill” isn’t among his priorities for the 2017 session, adding that he doesn’t want to jeopardize events like the Final Four.

The Texas Association of Business, the state’s chamber of commerce, recently said if anti-LGBT legislation passes, it would cost the state $8.5 billion and 185,000 jobs. TAB plans a news conference at the Capitol on Tuesday morning to discuss its economic impact study in more detail.