The event industry in Texas is keeping a wary eye on a bill pending in the state legislature that would restrict which bathrooms transgender people could use. A similar measure went into law in North Carolina in 2016, leading a wave of businesses and groups to boycott the state; that law was repealed in March.
Texas’ Senate Bill 6 would require transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on “biological sex.” The measure comes on the heels of a bill signed into law last month allowing Texas child welfare providers to deny adoptions and other services to children and parents based on "sincerely held religious beliefs.” Taken together, the two moves are seen by some as hostile to the LGBT community.
A backlash against the bathroom bill is brewing.
The Dallas News reports this week that CEOs from 14 leading employers in the Dallas area have taken a public stand against the bathroom bill. MPI, which is based in Dallas, has taken a position against the bill, a spokesperson tells Special Events.
Also, the American Association of Law Libraries has announced that after its meeting in Austin in July, it will not hold meetings and events in the state until policies are reversed, according to our sister publication MeetingsNet.
Texas event pros are watching the situation carefully.
“None of our clients have mentioned it--yet,” says Tanya Posavatz, CSEP, principal with Austin, Texas-based Clink Events. “But we’re definitely very concerned about what it could mean for Austin conference business, which is finally starting to grow robustly after years of not having enough direct flights or hotel rooms to service demand.”
MILLIONS GONE She adds, “We’ve discussed the issue with our sister Hosts DMC in Charlotte [N.C.], who warned us that their city lost over $6 million in conference business in less than a year, and that was just direct with hotels--that doesn’t include all the event vendors like us. The local industry has invested in increasing capacity to meet growing demand--a sudden drop in corporate programs and events coming to Austin would definitely hurt all of us.”
Lori Schneider, founder of the Cupcake Bar in Austin, says that the bill is a “huge concern in Austin, as we watch others cities and states get pushback” on the issue. She notes that some businesses in Austin have signed a petition to protest the measure.
Debbie Meyers-Shock, CSEP, head of Dallas-based Bravo Entertainment, sees the issue as a headache that simply doesn’t need to happen. “We’re a conservative state and I’m conservative, but it’s just crazy that the government would tell anybody where to go to the bathroom," she says. "I think it just needs to go away.”