Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce comes out against "bathroom bill"

By Kayley Ryan

Some of the largest urban chambers of commerce in Texas, including those in Dallas, Austin, El Paso and now Fort Worth, have come out against the “bathroom bill” proposed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, according to Texas Competes.
Last month, the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce joined Texas Competes, a coalition of business leaders who oppose discriminatory policies toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The bill before the Texas Senate would require transgender people to use restrooms based on their gender at birth in public facilities such as schools and government buildings.
Patrick introduced Senate Bill 6 on Jan. 5.
Last March, North Carolina began enforcing a similar bathroom policy.
Business leaders point to North Carolina as a reason Texas should not adopt the “bathroom bill,” said Mark Nurdin, chairman of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.
The NCAA withdrew seven championships from North Carolina, citing the state’s law as contrary to its values of inclusion and fairness, according to a statement.
“It was just a tremendous amount of tension between the state and the city of Charlotte that affected their economy negatively,” Nurdin said. “It had a multi-million-dollar impact on the economy and thousands of jobs were impacted.”
SB6 prompted the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce to sign the Texas Competes pledge to uphold its stance on non-discrimination policies the city has had in place since 2009, Nurdin said.
SB6 could nullify Fort Worth’s 2009 law, which protects against discrimination on the basis of gender identity, said Nurdin. 
Supporters of the bill say it is needed to protect the safety and privacy of individuals, Patrick said in a statement.
“This issue is not about discrimination—it’s about public safety, protecting businesses and common sense,” Patrick said.
Fort Worth chamber members criticize the bill, calling it discriminatory and unwelcoming to business, Nurdin said.
The chamber contacted local business members to notify them of its stance on SB6.
Out of about 40 business representatives who emailed their responses as of this month, at least 35 agreed with the chamber’s position, said Andra Bennett, the chamber’s spokeswoman.
Some wrote they disagreed because of a lack privacy or a political difference of opinion about whether the state or local government should be in charge, Bennett said.
Todd Knight, the owner of Dynasty Roofing, said he supports SB6 because it provides business owners with the freedom to decide their own restroom policy.
“For business owners to be able to make their decisions and to run their companies in the way that they see best, is the thing that will help Texas profit the most,” said Knight.

Some local business owners have already signed the Texas Competes pledge.
A local artist who turns “trash to treasure” will be placing her Texas Competes bumper sticker on her truck.
Rebecca Low of Rebecca Low Sculptural Gallery said she opposes the bill because she sees it as discriminatory and harmful to business.
“If there’s a transgender person and they were born male and they are identifying as female, it’s probably not gonna be near as comfortable for them to be in the male bathroom,” said Low.

Following what happened in North Carolina, Fort Worth chamber members foresee a similar fallout in Texas if its bill is passed.
“That is going to change the landscape in Texas, and if it passes, it’s going to make, it’s going to send the message that Texas is not welcoming to all people,” Nurdin said.
The NFL released a statement Feb. 10 saying Texas’ proposed law could jeopardize future Super Bowls or NFL events from being awarded to the state.
A spokesperson from Patrick’s office responded with a statement to the Associated Press, saying the NFL would be able to set its own policies for its facilities.
SB6 has been referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee, according to Texas Legislature Online.
Committee members will consider and possibly amend the bill before it can be released from committee and sent to the house floor for consideration.