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Texas Bathroom Bill Has Emotions, and Stakes, Running High

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July 22, 2017

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AUSTIN, Tex. — Amid conflicting pressures from gay rights groups, social conservatives, corporations and the state’s Republican leadership, the Texas Senate on Friday waded back into the volatile issue of restricting bathroom use by transgender people in government buildings and schools.

The issue, which roiled North Carolina for more than a year and led to boycotts and other economic blowback, has become one of the most heated and high-stakes political dramas in Texas. It has deepened the divide between moderate Republicans and social conservatives and caused widespread fears that a wave of boycotts and protests would do serious damage to the Texas economy, which is still feeling the effects of a drop in the price of oil.

Given the presence in Texas, the second most populous state, of three of the nation’s 10 largest cities, the economic stakes from boycotts or cancellations of concerts and athletic events could dwarf what played out in North Carolina.

The so-called bathroom bill was approved by a Republican-dominated Senate committee on Friday evening and now heads to the full Senate for a vote, part of a fast-paced push by social conservatives to try to pass the measure into law in the coming weeks.

Earlier on Friday, more than 250 supporters and opponents of the bill signed up to testify before the Senate Committee on State Affairs. The testimony began in the morning and continued into the evening. The hearing centered on two bills requiring transgender people to use the bathroom, locker room or shower that corresponds with the sex on their birth certificate, as opposed to their gender identity, in public buildings, including schools. The version that the committee ultimately approved passed by a vote of 8 to 1.

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