by Sarah J.F. Braley | February 01, 2017
A coalition of Texas convention and visitor bureaus, state businesses and meetings industry organizations has formed to fight Senate Bill 6, also known as the Texas Privacy Act, introduced to the state's legislature last month by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham). The proposed legislation would require people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, regardless of their gender identity.

The new group, called TexasWelcomes All, is comprised of VisitDallas and other destination marketing organizations in the state, including the cities of San Antonio, Austin, Arlington and Fort Worth, 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.

"The Texas Privacy Act is a piece of legislation that is discriminatory and sends a message that Texas is unwelcoming," said 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 fi nancial impact on our state with the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars."

According to a statement from the group, which also includes nearly 1,200 employers (41 of them Fortune 500 fi rms), 21 Texas chambers of commerce, and most major airlines and hotels, significant economic risk would result from the perception of Texas as hostile to LGBT people, while protecting the state's competitiveness costs nothing at all.

The coalition also stated that if the legislation is passed, the state could anticipate a shortterm GDP loss of $8.5 billion annually due to lost tourism and travel revenues, and an estimated 185,000 tourism and travel jobs in Texas would be at risk.

"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," said Deborah Sexton, president and CEO of PCMA, which held its most recent annual meeting in Austin in January. "Should SB6 be signed into law," Sexton warned, "you ensure Texas' future percentage of these taxes and spending will be exponentially reduced."

Speaking for ASAE, John H. Graham, IV, FASAE, CAE, president and CEO of the organization, said his group "opposes any legislation that permits or even gives the appearance of tolerating discrimination. 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."