AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas could soon follow North Carolina as the only states with so-called bathroom bills now that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is on board after ending months of silence that businesses and LGBT rights groups fighting the efforts had taken as an encouraging sign.
A key vote in Texas could come early as Wednesday with time running out for the GOP-controlled Legislature to get behind Abbott's endorsement and deliver a bill to his desk before adjourning in May.
The sudden buy-in from Abbott is significant, and stands apart from other Republican governors who have kept distance from similar proposals or outright rejected them over the past year. Most recent was in Arkansas, where Republican Gov. Asa Hutchison said the state didn't need a bill similar to a North Carolina law, which caused economic backlash and was partially repealed last month by a new Democratic governor.
Here's a look at how Texas got here and where things stand:
WHAT THE BILL DOES
The version backed by Abbott would nullify nondiscrimination ordinances surrounding bathroom access already on the books in major Texas cities including Dallas, San Antonio and Austin. The proposal doesn't include the most well-known part of the old North Carolina law: the requirement that people use bathrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate.
Its author, Republican state Rep. Ron Simmons, defended his proposal as means to prevent a patchwork of different local restroom policies in Texas and said it wasn't anti-transgender.
"These types of issues that would affect every Texan, indirectly or directly, need to be handled at the state level," Simmons said.
The Texas Association of Business, the state's dominant business lobby, opposes any bathroom bill, while other opponents criticized characterizations from that the House proposal could be a palatable compromise.
"There is no amount of discrimination that is acceptable," said Chuck Smith, chief executive of Equality Texas, an LGBT rights group.
Abbott was noncommittal over a bill passed by Texas Senate in March that mimicked the original North Carolina law. The prospect of Texas passing a bathroom bill was languishing before Abbott issued a statement this week backing the House proposal, which supporters say mirrors a recent compromise in North Carolina.
Silence from Abbott, coupled with Republican House leaders outright saying they didn't want a bathroom bill, stalled the idea in Texas for the past month. But opponents were scrambling again ahead of a House State Affairs committee meeting Wednesday that has revived the effort.
Opponents in the business community have released several studies warning that Texas faces an economic backlash of billions of dollars if the state passes any version of a bathroom bill although Republicans backers have dismissed those numbers with skepticism.
The NCAA had staged among the most visible boycotts in North Carolina, pulling seven championships events out of the state last year. But following the compromise, the NCAA again awarded events to North Carolina, in addition to putting several in Texas.
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