This week at South by Southwest, our nation’s brightest innovators and most inspiring creatives gather in Austin to celebrate the best of the tech business. We can’t help but be reminded of the Texas spirit: a beautiful mix of bold individuality, fair-minded opportunity and the single word that comprises the Texas state motto, Friendship.
Meanwhile, just a short walk away at the Texas Capitol, the Legislature is considering a bill that would undermine those cherished values and make Texas more dangerous for the people who live here, including its public school children. Senate Bill 6 must not become law.
SB 6 is modeled on a North Carolina law that prevents transgender people from using the bathrooms that match their gender identities. That law exposes trans individuals to unyielding discrimination in communities across that state. Back in Texas, we should expect the same if SB 6 becomes law. It would be a disaster for the Texas economy, an attack against Texans and a shameful, discriminatory chapter in the state’s history.
When North Carolina and Indiana passed anti-LGBTQ laws, the economic backlash was swift and devastating, and we’ve already seen that SB 6 would cause similar repercussions in Texas. At least three organizations have canceled conventions in San Antonio simply because the bill is under consideration — and San Antonio’s tourist bureau reports that eight more organizations will relocate their conventions if it passes.
Losing those conventions would cost San Antonio an estimated $20 million in lost business — and that’s just one sector of industry in just one city in Texas. If SB 6 becomes law, it could cost Texas hundreds of millions of dollars this year alone — a hefty price to pay to usher in discrimination against law-abiding Texans.
Most importantly, SB 6 isn’t just a threat to the Texas economy, it’s also a serious threat to the safety of transgender youth and adults who already face high levels of bullying, discrimination and even violence. Seven transgender women of color have already been murdered this year. If that pace continues, this could be the most deadly year on record for transgender people.
These risks are especially high for young transgender people, and the consequences are severe. In a recent study, more than 40 percent of transgender adults reported having attempted suicide and 92 percent of those made their attempt before they were 25 years old.
Both of us have spent our careers — Sarah Kate as an advocate, and Wendy as a legislator — fighting for all people to have equal rights and be accepted for who they are, no matter what they look like, their gender or who they love. We’re also both parents, and in our hearts, we view SB 6 first and foremost as moms.
As a parent, you fight with everything you’ve got to keep your kids safe. SB6 isn’t one of those tools. In fact, 19 states and more than 200 cities across the US have laws that protect the ability of everyone to use the appropriate restroom and none of them have experienced an increase in public safety incidents. There are many things that threaten our children, but transgender people using the restroom in peace isn’t one of them.
As a parent, you also try to teach your children to be kind and respectful, and to treat others the way they’d want to be treated — the Golden Rule. You prepare them as best you can to face the dangers of the world and you pray they’ll come home every night without a scratch.
But what do you do when your state government teaches the opposite, putting a target on the backs of its transgender citizens? How can you teach your children about the Golden Rule when your elected leaders provide a permission slip for bullying and discrimination?
Our elected leaders’ choice to make Texas’ most vulnerable citizens targets of bullying and violence is just plain wrong. Parents in Texas are already reporting increased bullying as a result of SB 6, in part because some districts are already enforcing the discriminatory rules it would impose. One mother even pulled her eight-year-old daughter out of school because she was too afraid to go back.
The elected officials in the Texas Capitol have a choice to make: Will they set a good example for our kids by standing for an equal society, a vibrant economy and a more compassionate place for everyone? Or will they make sure that our state’s motto — Friendship — is placed in jeopardy by allowing open discrimination and possible harm against people who need our protection the most?
Our children are watching, and we must do the right thing before it’s too late. The Texas legislature must listen to its people and businesses by rejecting SB 6.