Texas politicians uncover a work-around

With the anti-transgender SB 6 stuck in the mud in the Texas House, Rep. Ron Simmons of Carollton has taken a cue from the North Carolina "compromise" and introduced HB 2899, which would prohibit cities and counties from passing non-discrimination ordinances which extend rights beyond what is protected by state law. The bill would also nullify all local non-discrimination laws already in place.

Current Texas law includes only race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin and age as protected classes.

University of Texas students speak out:

While Simmons' bill does not mention bathrooms, it would replace non-discrimination criteria approved by city officials with those approved by state lawmakers. In effect, localities no longer could allow transgender people to use public bathrooms that match their gender identity in government-owned buildings because they would not be considered a protected class under state statute.

The initial bill, which Simmons says he intended to amend before Wednesday's hearing, drew sharp rebukes from big-city officials, LGBT rights organizations and the state's largest business group. They have staunchly opposed attempts by some Republican lawmakers to restrict local elected officials' authority to pass their own measures against discrimination, which often include provisions to protect members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.

We're against it because we have a non-discrimination ordinance, and we certainly don't want it preempted by the state. This is yet another one of these legislative sessions where they're just so adverse to municipalities; it's unfortunate, and I don't understand it.

--Dallas City Councilman Lee Kleinman

We remain focused on stopping discriminatory legislation and keeping Texas open for business and inviting for all.

--Chris Wallace, Texas Association of Business

Dallas, Austin, Ft. Worth and Plano have comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinances covering employment, housing and public accommodation while requiring the same of city contractors. Plano's ordinance has quite a few exemptions but I am including it here for simplicity.

Those cover a population of 3 million people.

Those protections would be gone.

Another six cities offer some form of protection:
Houston: City employment and city contractors
San Antonio: Housing, public accommodations, city employment and city contractors.
El Paso: Public accommodations and city employment
Grand Prairie: (LGB only) City employment and city contractors
Brownsville: City employment
Waco: City employments

Those cover 4.5 million people.

Those protections would be gone.

Combined with comprehensive protections, 7.5 million people are covered or roughly 28% of the state's population. Plus there are many smaller subdivisions that ban LGBT or LGB discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. But we are not done.

Texas has two state university systems, Texas A&M and Texas State (which includes Lamar, Sam Houston and Sul Ross Universities). Those have a combined enrollment of approximately 125,000 and they employ over 55,000 people. There are scattered campus exceptions but the systems protect LGBT employees and students from discrimination. On top of that there are numerous public school systems that protect LGBT students from discrimination.

Those protections would also be gone.

--David Cary Hart, The Slowly Boiled Frog




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