North Carolina Mayor Warns Texas of ‘Manmade Recession’ If Bathroom Bill Passes

The bill, one of several anti-LGBT proposals in the Legislature, would be much harder to repeal than pass, the mayor said.

March for non-discrimination ordinance in San Antonio
Protesters supporting LGBT rights march in San Antonio.  Forrest Wilder

A North Carolina mayor issued a warning Thursday to Texas lawmakers concerning Senate Bill 6, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s anti-transgender bathroom bill.

Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan said a similar law in the Tarheel State — House Bill 2 — has created a “manmade recession,” and recently prompted a Fortune 500 company to decide not to relocate its headquarters to her city.

Vaughan added that the law, estimated to have cost North Carolina’s economy hundreds of millions of dollars, has been especially harmful to low-wage, hourly workers who rely on jobs related to concerts and sporting events.

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“I have not heard of one business that has said, ‘I’m coming to North Carolina because of HB 2,’” Vaughan said. “I would caution your legislature to be careful, because repealing it is much harder than passing it.”

Karrie League, co-owner and co-founder of the Alamo Drafthouse, said she fears SB 6 would have a devastating impact on events such as South by Southwest and Austin City Limits.

“Texas will receive the same treatment North Carolina did, if not worse,” she said.

League and Vaughan spoke at the Capitol during a Thursday briefing for the media and legislative staffers on the bathroom bill and other discriminatory legislation in the 2017 session. Senate Bill 6 is among five anti-LGBT proposals introduced thus far, but advocates expect dozens more before the March 10 filing deadline.

Representative Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, from left, speaks during a briefing on anti-LGBT bills at the Capitol on Thursday, along with Greensboro, North Carolina Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Alamo Drafthouse co-founder Karrie League.
Representative Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, from left, speaks during a briefing on anti-LGBT bills at the Capitol on Thursday, along with Greensboro, North Carolina Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Alamo Drafthouse co-founder Karrie League.  John Wright

Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director for the ACLU of Texas, said the goal of the briefing was to “pull back the curtain” on anti-LGBT legislation, which is frequently disguised as promoting privacy, religious freedom or parental rights.

“It is not at all about women’s privacy,” Robertson said of the bathroom bill, which Patrick is calling the “Texas Privacy Act.”  

“It’s about denying our transgender friends, family members and neighbors the ability to participate in public life,” she said.

Danielle Skidmore, a trans woman from Austin who spoke at the briefing, called SB 6 “absurd” and said it would “deputize citizens to police other people’s gender.”

SB 6, by state Senator Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, would require people to use restrooms based on their birth certificates in public schools and government buildings, and allow witnesses to report possible violations to the attorney general’s office.

“It is especially harmful for children,” Skidmore said. “It is the state trying to remove [trans people] from society.”

Chelsa Morrison of Grapevine, who pulled her 8-year-old daughter out of school last year in response to anti-trans discrimination, encouraged lawmakers to educate themselves on the issue.

“If you don’t understand what being transgender means, Google it,” Morrison said. “This bill is ridiculous, it’s dangerous and it’s deadly to my daughter and all of her trans friends.”

In addition to LGBT advocates, SB 6 faces strong opposition from the business community, including the state’s chamber of commerce, which estimates the bill could cost the Texas economy up to $8.5 billion.

State Representative Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, noted that his district includes the Alamodome, which is scheduled to host the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four in 2018. The NCAA recently moved the 2017 Final Four out of North Carolina in response to HB 2.

“Were we not to get it, we would lose a quarter billion dollars in the course of one week,” Bernal said at Thursday’s briefing, referring to a recent economic impact study. “To me that is a secondary consideration to opposing it because it’s just wrong, and it hurts people, and it makes us turn on our neighbors.”

John Wright is a freelance journalist based in Austin. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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Published at 5:30 pm CST
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