Efforts to pass a so-called “bathroom bill” in Texas failed this week when the legislature abruptly ended a 30-day special session with no vote on the measure.
Despite support among voters and legislators, the bill, titled the “Texas Privacy Act,” garnered a pack of big business opponents, including organizations like the NFL, Apple, Amazon, Exxon Mobile, and Hilton, who threatened retribution against the state if the bill passed.
The proposed legislation would have required transgender individuals to use the public restroom corresponding to their biological sex in schools and state buildings. North Carolina passed a similar law in 2016 but then partially repealed the measure due to public backlash.
Supporters argued the measure was about ensuring the safety of girls and women in showers, locker rooms, and restrooms.
Polls indicated they had wide voter support: An August survey commissioned by Texas Values, a pro-family advocacy group based in Austin, found nearly 80 percent of Republican voters backed the measure.
This week was the second time the bill failed in the Texas legislature. The first time, during the regular session in May, the more conservative Texas Senate rejected a watered-down version passed by the House that applied only to schools.
In this recent 30-day special session, two leaders in the House of Representatives, both moderate Republicans, blocked the bill from even going to a vote on the House floor, where it would have likely passed. House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook refused to schedule the bill for a hearing, and House Speaker Joe Straus said he would not put the bill up before the entire House because of potential significant harm to the state’s economy if opposing businesses followed through on their punitive promises.
But a widely circulated report by the Texas Association of Business about the billions of dollars and thousands of jobs the state would lose if it passed the bill included misinformation and numerical errors, according to Nicole Hudgens, a policy analyst for Texas Values. Reports also surfaced earlier this month that the group’s campaign to oppose the Texas Privacy Act was funded, in large part, by national LGBT advocacy groups, including the Gill Foundation and the Human Rights Campaign.
Hudgens also noted the hypocrisy of business leaders who tell the state to implement open policies regarding restrooms but don’t privately implement the same policies in their own businesses.
“We are not going to put our dollars over our daughters,” Hudgens said.
When asked about the future of “bathroom bills” in Texas and other states, Hudgens said the fight isn’t over: “Both sides agree this issue isn’t going away.”
Without a statewide decision on the matter, the issue will instead be decided at the city, county, and school-board level. And LGBT groups will continue to push policies that would allow boys into girls showers, locker rooms, and restrooms.
Hudgens hasn’t ruled out the possibility that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a vocal supporter of the initiative, will call another special session to push a vote on the Texas Privacy Act.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” she said.