Dan Patrick's Proposed Bathroom Bill Could Cost Texas Some Huge Sporting Events

One of the items at the top of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick's wish list come January is the Texas version of North Carolina’s so-called bathroom bill. The bill is seen primarily as an anti-LGBT measure that would prohibit transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice, instead forcing them to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates.

North Carolina’s version of this bill has done some significant damage to that state’s economy. Studies estimate that the state has suffered nearly $400 million in economic losses since March. This includes the withdrawal of business (or canceled business expansion) from companies such as Apple, PayPal and Yelp.

Multiple movie studios have pulled previously scheduled productions from the state. That $400 million figure also happens to include some massive financial damage arising from the NBA's pulling the All-Star game out of Charlotte, along with the Atlantic Coast Conference and the NCAA's moving championship events from the state as a result of the law.

The Houston Press noted earlier this year that Houston could be in danger of also losing such sports events thanks to a vote defeating so-called HERO legislation that prohibited, among other things, discrimination against transgender people. The hit to Houston arises from NCAA legislation that prohibits events from being held in an environment that is not safe, healthy and free of discrimination and that fails to provide safeguards for the dignity of everyone involved in the events.

But now Patrick has gone full-in on pushing such legislation for the entirety of Texas. And while such legislation might satisfy the lusting and desire of the more socially conservative elements of his base, the business side of Texas is not too happy regarding the proposal — especially the GOP-oriented Texas Association of Business (TAB).

TAB has released a study that states such legislation could cost the state 185,000 jobs, with a resulting economic loss of $964 million to $8.5 billion. More than 1,000 Texas companies have signed pledges supporting LGBT rights in the state, including Dell and American Airlines.

“Protecting Texas from billions of dollars in losses is simple,” Chris Wallace, president of the TAB, told the Houston Chronicle. “Don't pass unnecessary laws that discriminate against Texans and our visitors."

Patrick, much like the supporters of the North Carolina bathroom bill before him, calls fears of lost business unfounded.

“It’s just not real,” Patrick says of the business and boycott threats. “It’s like the entertainer’s threat, ‘I’m not going to go and perform a concert in that city.’ Really? Fine. Someone else will book the date. If the business doesn’t want to move there, another business will take your place.”

But here’s the deal. The threats are real. This isn’t just Bruce Springsteen canceling a concert. The NBA did pull its All Star Game out of Charlotte because of the passage of that law. And not only did the NCAA establish rules prohibiting the playing of championship events in such states; it showed that it planned to enforce them by moving the NCAA Tournament. So Patrick’s legislation could cost Texas the ability to host NBA All Star Games and such high-profile events as the NCAA Final Four, which was played in Houston at NRG Stadium, a public facility, back in April. The 2018 Final Four is scheduled for San Antonio's Alamodome.

“I think the evidence is crystal clear that the NCAA will not host any more championships in Texas if we were to pass a law similar to North Carolina,” state Senator José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, told the Chronicle. “I don't need any more proof than seeing what they did in North Carolina. Why would they treat Texas differently? Why would they give us a special pass?”

The NCAA legislation wouldn’t totally prohibit championship-level events in Texas. But those events would have to be played at private facilities that would not be subject to Patrick’s legislation, providing the facilities and host universities could guarantee a safe, non-discriminatory environment. So, for instance, Rice could host postseason baseball games, but not the University of Houston. And with all of the state’s large stadiums being publicly funded and publicly owned facilities (though leased to private entities), playing NCAA Tournament games or College Football Playoff games in NRG Stadium, the Alamo Dome or AT&T Stadium in Dallas could be no-nos.

North Carolina has shown that the fears of the Texas Association of Business are real. Businesses will leave. Jobs will be lost. There will be a huge economic hit. And high-profile sporting events will head off to New Orleans or Las Vegas or Los Angeles.

So that’s the deal. Is the passage of a discriminatory law really worth it?

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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal