HB2, North Carolina's infamous anti-trans "bathroom bill," could be about to get a sibling in Texas.
Bob Hall, a Republican senator in the Texas state legislature, filed a bill yesterday that would do away with all city and county-level LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinances, just as HB2 does.
The bill is titled the "Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act," because it's bad PR to call your law "This Will Make Discrimination Much Easier Act."
The activist group Freedom for All Americans identified the cities of Austin, Brownsville, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Plano, San Antonio, and Waco, as well as all of Dallas and Walker Counties, as having laws forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Grand Prairie and Lubbock also have laws that protect people on the basis of sexual orientation. While Texas does not have a statewide LGBTQ anti-discrimination law, these cities make up about a third of the state's population.
All of these laws were passed by democratically elected representatives and in some cases have been on the books for decades. Austin first passed an ordinance forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in 1982.
But Sen. Hall's law would invalidate all of these ordinances as well as any other discrimination protection that isn't outlined in the state's anti-discrimination law. So much for small government.
The Texas Legislature session is just starting so it's difficult to tell what bills will survive to a vote. There is at least one rival bill to Hall's proposed by Democratic Sen. José Rodríguez that would specifically protect Texans from discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
But the Texas state Senate is controlled by Republicans—specifically Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick. Unlike other states, lieutenant governors in Texas actually maintain a powerful hold on the business of the state Senate, so what Patrick wants matters. You may remember him for tweeting this after the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting.
Suffice to say, Lt. Gov. Patrick is not moved by the cause of LGBTQ rights. In a list of legislative priorities that he released on Monday, he specifically mentioned a bathroom bill-style "Women's Privacy Act."