TEXAS SENATE BILL 6
“… I have been actively involved with various diversity efforts within AALL. I have thought a lot about diversity in our Association, and I am intimately acquainted with our progress on racial, ethnic, and sexual orientation issues. However, there are numerous kinds of diversity, beyond race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, that enrich and enliven our Association and serve to make us all better law librarians.”Ronald Wheeler“AALL Diversity Redelineated,” (Vol. 106:1 [2014-8])part of the Diversity Dialogues seriesin Law Library Journal
As many of you know, I am deeply committed to diversity and inclusion. As the president of AALL, I lead an Association that values and prioritizes diversity and inclusion as much as I do. Our AALL Annual Meeting & Conference will be held in Austin this year, and I was disheartened to learn that on January 5 Texas Senator Lois Kolkhurst (R-Brenham) introduced Senate Bill 6 (SB 6 or “Texas Privacy Act”) that would discriminate against transgender people.
If passed, the bill would prohibit local governments from adopting ordinances “relating to regulations and policies for entering or using a bathroom or changing facility,” thereby nullifying transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination bathroom policies in many municipalities. It would also require public schools districts, open-enrollment charter schools, state agencies, and political subdivisions to “develop a policy requiring each multiple-occupancy bathroom or changing facility … to be designated for and used only by persons of the same biological sex [as stated on a person’s birth certificate].” The bill is supported by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.
It appears that the bill will affect only government and education buildings. Patrick, in a statement released about the bill, commented, “SB 6 also ensures that businesses have the freedom to determine their own bathroom policies … .” Furthermore, The Texas Tribune reported that “it also appears to essentially exempt convention centers, stadiums and entertainment venues. The legislation would not apply ‘if the location owned by a government entity is privately leased to an outside entity,’ [said Kolkhorst,] which is often the case for those sort of venues.”
As I pondered the theme of this year’s AALL Annual Meeting, Forgo the Status Quo–inspired by the cultural liberalism of our host city Austin and our forward-thinking profession–I never dreamed that the meeting might be tainted by government officials trying to inflict their status quo statewide. In fact, the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area has the third highest percentage of LGBT residents in the United States.
How could this affect our upcoming AALL Annual Meeting? From our research, it appears that our meeting facilities will not be affected. Since our meeting is just a few months away, we cannot move the meeting from Austin without severe financial impact to the Association. If the bill passes, I ask AALL membership to focus on supporting the Texas LGBT community over punishing the state. After all, the economic impact of the bill will likely affect the livelihoods of those we support, so let’s focus on those impacted by the bill. That said, regardless of the bill’s outcome, we are in the process of planning an awareness activity in support of the LGBT community.
Please rest assured that we are monitoring the situation closely and have faith the bill will not pass. Indeed, Texas Welcomes All, a coalition of Texas convention and visitors bureaus, businesses, and professional associations, gathered at the Capital in Austin on January 11, in opposition to the bill. The coalition includes: Austin Convention and Visitors, Professional Convention Management Association, American Society of Association Executives, and International Association for Exhibitions and Events.
Our members are the most inclusive people I know. It will make me proud to exemplify those values in July. It is my hope that the legislators of Texas will mirror our values and defeat Senate Bill 6.
Ronald E. Wheeler Jr.