Bathroom bill: Why 'Percy Jackson' author won't accept Texas legislature honor

The best-selling author of the 'Percy Jackson and the Olympians' series won't visit the Texas legislature to accept an award, and some are worried businesses and sporting events will follow suit. 

Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman/AP
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senator Lois Kolkhorst introduced Senate Bill 6 known as the Texas Privacy Act, which responds to a federal mandate for transgender bathrooms, showers and dressing rooms in all Texas schools.

Texas is starting to feel the backlash against a transgender “bathroom bill” introduced in the state Senate on Thursday.

Rick Riordan, the best-selling author of "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" fantasy novels turned down an invitation to the state legislature this March, citing Senate Bill 6 in a tweet, which would limit transgender people to using just the restroom that matches their “biological sex.”

Mr. Riordan is one of the first celebrities to boycott his home state (he was raised in San Antonio, but lives in Massachusetts) over the proposed legislation. But some Texans are concerned names as big as the National Football League and the NCAA could soon follow, mirroring the response North Carolina felt with its “bathroom bill.”

But the bad press these kinds of boycotts have brought on has been effective in forcing other states besides Texas to reconsider their stances on such controversial LGBT and civil rights issues.

Senate Bill 6 would require transgender people to use bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms in government buildings and public schools and universities based on their “biological sex.” The bill would also ban local cities from having transgender bathroom protections in their anti-discrimination ordinances.

The bill would allow schools to accommodate transgender students on a case-by-case basis, Republican state senator Lois Kolkhorst, who introduced the bill along with Mr. Patrick, told the Texas Tribune. But “public entities” that violate the law would be subject to a fine, she said.

Conservative lawmakers say the law is about safety: Men, for instance, should not be allowed to use women’s bathrooms.

“This issue is not about discrimination – it’s about public safety, protecting businesses and common sense,” said Senator Patrick, in a statement. “This legislation codifies what has been common practice in Texas and everywhere else forever – that men and women should use separate, designated bathrooms.”

But business groups are worried the rest of the country won’t see it that way. The Texas Association of Businesses, which often sides with conservative lawmakers, came out against the bill because it believes the legislation will lead to boycotts, and losses of both billions in revenue and up to 185,000 jobs.

That’s what happened in North Carolina, after it passed its own “bathroom bill,” House Bill 2. According to Forbes estimates in November, North Carolina lost as much as $630 million in business since March 2016 because of the controversial legislation.

The Christian Science Monitor’s Patrik Jonsson detailed the opposition in April:

Less than a month after the bill was passed, the Center for American Progress estimates that the state has already put $500 million in corporate investment and tourism dollars in jeopardy.

A growing boycott campaign now involves perhaps as many as 1,000 high-paying jobs lost, including 400 from PayPal canceling a multimillion dollar expansion. The list of canceled concerts and shows – including Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Ringo Starr, and Cirque de Soleil – so far have cost millions of dollars in lost revenue. Thursday, the National Basketball Association said that the 2017 All-Star Game won’t be played in Charlotte unless the law is changed.

The NCAA also relocated several tournament games out of the state, largely because of travel bans five states issued against public employees traveling to North Carolina.

Last month, North Carolina lawmakers convened a special legislative session with the intention of repealing the law, but failed to do so, according to The Washington Post.

Such threats to move sporting events are looming over Texas. The Super Bowl, the sporting world’s largest event, will likely remain in Houston in February. But the NCAA “recently began quizzing current and prospective host cities, asking them to ‘specifically outline how they will protect participants and spectators from discrimination’ including details on how they would mitigate an local discriminatory laws or rules that permit the refusal of services to members of any group,” The New York Times reported.

Similar actions were effective in swaying states to reconsider controversial legislation in the past. In 1990, the NFL voted to hold the 1993 Super Bowl in Arizona, but moved it to Pasadena, Calif., when Arizona refused to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday. In 1992, Arizona recognized the law and the state has hosted several Super Bowls since.

After Indiana passed a controversial religious liberty bill two years ago, the state lost $60 million in convention businesses before lawmakers watered down the law. Georgia's Republican governor Nathan Deal also cited corporate investment in vetoing what he called a “discriminatory” religious liberty bill last year. 

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