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Texas Continues Attack on LGBT Rights

Texas is continuing its attack on rights for LGBT citizens, including challenging benefits for legally married same-gender couples and introducing its own “bathroom bill.”

The Texas Supreme Court this month agreed to hear a case challenging benefits for same-gender married couples, despite the legalization of gay marriage nationwide in 2015. A previous lawsuit is being brought up again on the orders of Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The men filed an amicus brief in October.

“While the U.S. Supreme Court did recognize a right to same-sex marriage, there are a host of issues in that area of the law that remain unresolved,” Paxton said at the time. “I applaud Governor Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick for their leadership in asking that state courts give serious consideration to these weighty, unresolved questions.”

According to the lawsuit, “No city employee — whether heterosexual or homosexual — has a ‘fundamental right’ to receive employee benefits for his or her spouse.” Further, the lawsuit calls for the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges to be “construed as narrowly as possible.”

In September the court rejected to hear a Houston case against former Mayor Annise Parker, who determined that same-gender couples who had been legally married in other states are entitled to the same benefits as other married Texas couples. The court denied the case with only one judge, Justice John Devine, dissenting.

“The State may well have believed that offering certain benefits to opposite-sex couples would encourage procreation within marriage,” Devine’s dissent read in part. “After all, benefits such as health insurance provide financial security as couples decide whether to have a child.”

Oral arguments are scheduled to begin in March.

Additionally, Lt. Gov. Patrick has been advocating for the state’s own “bathroom bill,” similar to North Carolina’s HB 2. Texas introduced SB 6, also known as the Texas Privacy Bill, this month. The bill would prevent transgender people from using the public bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.

Patrick said his state is “on the right side of history.”

Discrimination proves to be bad for business once again.

According to the bill, which was introduced by Republican State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst “A school district, open-enrollment charter school, state agency, or political subdivision that violates this chapter is liable” to pay up to $1,500 for a first offense and “not less than $10,000” for a second offense.

“Each day of a continuing violation of this chapter constitutes a separate violation,” the bill adds.

The bill applies to public buildings, and privately owned entities would be able to impose their own rules.

Democratic State Sen. José Rodríguez said in a press release regarding the bill, “Discrimination of any kind is antithetical to Texas values of equal opportunity for all people.” In addition to calling it “morally wrong,” Rodríguez also pointed out the economic turmoil North Carolina faced after passing its own “bathroom bill.”

Two studies from the Texas Association of Business (TAB) previously estimated that Texas’ economy could potentially lose $8.5 billion and nearly 200,000 jobs if lawmakers pass an anti-transgender bathroom bill or other anti-LGBT legislation. The organization voiced its concerns about SB 6 as well.

“Senate Bill 6 is discriminatory and wholly unnecessary legislation,” said Chris Wallace, president of TAB, in a statement, The Austin Chronicle reported.

A study found that Texas’ economy could suffer greatly — like North Carolina’s did —if lawmakers sign anti-LGBT legislation.

Researchers at St. Edward’s University, located in Austin, Texas, conducted the two TAB studies, of which the data was pooled together for the report. Potentially, according to the report, “Keep Texas Open for Business: The Economic Impact of Discriminatory Legislation on the State of Texas,” anti-LGBT laws could result in:

• A loss of anywhere between $964 million and $8.5 billion in state GDP
• The loss of 185,000 jobs
• Difficulty attracting, recruiting and retaining high potential talent, particularly millennial talent
• Drastically impact convention and tourism industry (which carries a $69 billion impact alone, the research estimates)
• Drive away large global businesses, including Marriott International (No. 9 on the DiversityInc 2016 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list).

Earlier this month, California announced it will no longer fund trips for government officials to states that passed anti-LGBT legislation any time after June 26, 2015. Currently, Assembly Bill 1887 prohibits travel to Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee — but the list will be ongoing and will likely include Texas if SB 6 is passed.

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