by Sarah J.F. Braley | January 12, 2017
A coalition of Texas convention and visitor bureaus, Texas businesses and meetings industry organizations has formed a coalition to fight Senate Bill 6, the Texas Privacy Act introduced to the state's legislature this month by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham). The proposed legislation, a so-called "bathroom bill," is similar to HB2, which was enacted in North Carolina last March; the Texas bill would require people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, directly discriminating against transgender people.
 
The new coalition, called Texas Welcomes All, includes VisitDallas, San Antonio, Austin, Arlington, Fort Worth, and other convention and visitors bureaus in Texas, as well as the Professional Convention Management Association, the American Society of Association Executives, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, and TechNet, the leading technology trade group in Texas. 
 
"Discrimination of any kind is wrong," said Phillip Jones, president and CEO, VisitDallas. "Rather than keep the status quo and let each Texas city determine its own community values, this legislation would essentially pre-empt Texas from doing business by bypassing every city's own social values to conform to one state standard."
 
According to a statement from the group, nearly 1,200 Texas employers, including 41 Fortune 500 companies, plus 21 Texas chambers of commerce and most of the major airlines and hotels, also are involved in saying there is significant economic risk in Texas being hostile to LGBT people -- and that protecting Texas' competitiveness costs nothing at all. 
 
The coalition also stated that if the legislation is passed, the state could anticipate a short-term GDP loss of $8.5 billion annually due to lost travel and tourism revenues, and it would put an estimated 185,000 travel and tourism jobs at risk in Texas.

The fallout in North Carolina included cancellations by major performing artists, sporting events, and business conventions and meetings, and SB 6 critics say Texas could suffer the same fate. 
 
"Restroom laws are one of the top policy deterrents for planning conventions, conferences and meetings," said Deborah Sexton, president and CEO of the Professional Convention Management Association, which just held its annual meeting in Austin this week. "Know that our industry holds 1.83 million meetings annually and brings $28 billion in U.S. federal, state and local taxes annually, with more than $280 billion in annual U.S. direct spending spurred by our sector. Should SB 6 be signed into law, you ensure Texas' future percentage of these taxes and spending will exponentially be reduced."
 
Speaking for ASAE, John H. Graham, IV, FASAE, CAE, president and CEO of the organization, said, "ASAE opposes any legislation that permits or even gives the appearance of tolerating discrimination. Similar to other bills of this type that we have seen proliferate across the country, Senate Bill 6 is discriminatory in that it is squarely aimed at denying public accommodations to members of the LGBTQ community. It also prohibits municipalities from passing their own inclusive public accommodation policies. Not only would this bill harm Texas's reputation as a welcoming state, it would very likely have severe economic consequences in the form of lost jobs, investments and event bookings throughout the state. ASAE is committed to working with our members, convention and visitor bureaus, and hospitality partners in Texas to address legislators' concerns while keeping Texas open and accessible for all."
 
"The Texas Privacy Act is a piece of legislation that is discriminatory and sends a message that Texas is unwelcoming," added Tom Noonan, president and CEO of the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Moreover, the passing of this bill or any other bathroom bill will have a huge financial impact on our state with the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars. We're asking other convention and visitor bureau leadership to join our coalition to keep Texas open for business and welcoming to all."