Big Oil weighs in: No bathroom bill
Businesses urge end of transgender ban effort, now failing in House.
Turning up the volume in what was already the loudest fight of the Legislature’s special session, more than 50 Houston business leaders — including officials of some of the nation’s largest oil companies — sent a letter Monday asking Gov. Greg Abbott to abandon efforts to outlaw transgender-friendly bathrooms in Texas.
The letter, coming from the hometown of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the state’s leading advocate for the legislation, arrived amid growing signs that the crackdown on transgender policies is in trouble in the Texas House.
It also opened a critical week in the special session — one that will be marked by dueling Capitol rallies, with leaders of various religions gathering in opposition Tuesday, the midpoint of the 30-day session, followed by a Thursday rally for supporters that will be led by conservative Christian pastors.
Monday’s letter, part of a gradually building campaign by opponents, urged Abbott to avoid any actions, “including the passage of any ‘bathroom bill,’ that would threaten our continued growth.”
“We support diversity and inclusion, and we believe that any such bill risks harming Texas’ reputation and impacting the state’s economic growth and ability to
create new jobs,” the Houston-area leaders wrote.
It’s a familiar argument among opponents of bills to limit transgender-friendly bathroom policies, but Monday’s letter carried extra weight because it was signed by officials of a half-dozen Fortune 500 corporations and a large slice of energy industry that helped propel the state’s economy to such heights.
Signed by top officials for Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Shell Oil, ExxonMobil, BP America and CenterPoint Energy — as well as Halliburton, Dow Chemical, Siemens and Accenture, among others — the letter also was copied to Patrick and to members of the Texas House.
Similar letters had already arrived from Dallas-area CEOs of AT&T, American Airlines, Texas Instruments and 11 other corporations, as well as the 200-company Austin Technology Council and leaders of 38 Austin tech companies.
Abbott included the transgender bathroom issue among 20 priorities he asked lawmakers to address in the special session, saying it was essential to protecting the privacy and safety of people, particularly women and girls, in intimate settings.
Led by Patrick, the Senate quickly passed its version of the bill last week, with every Republican and one Democrat giving final approval to Senate Bill 3 in a vote taken at 12:15 a.m. Wednesday.
House Speaker Joe Straus, however, has become increasingly vocal in his opposition, saying the efforts are unnecessary, place transgender Texans at risk and jeopardize the economy.
Straus, a San Antonio Republican, may not even refer SB 3 to a committee, leaving it to die untouched by House members.
In addition, the author of two House bills to limit transgender bathroom policies acknowledged Monday that his legislation is at risk.
Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, said he was promised a public hearing — but nothing more — on his bills by the chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana.