Nearly two dozen groups say they will not come to Austin if Texas lawmakers pass the controversial SB6 bathroom bill. Officials with the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau made that statement Monday as both sides are preparing for the first formal hearing.
Construction crews Monday morning could be seen around Austin setting up venues for SXSW. At the same time, another stage was being set at the state capitol; a political one. SB 6 which limits access to bathrooms by a person's gender at birth will have its first hearing on Tuesday. If it wins passage, Hugh Forrest, an organizer of the annual music and interactive event said it will threaten the future of SXSW prompting questions about whether or not the event could move.
"I don’t think I want to go there right now,” said Forrest.
Others have made a decision, according to Tom Noonan with the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"I was going to tell you this morning that as of now we have 22 groups that have canceled Austin, or will cancel Austin if this Bill passes. And unfortunately we added a 23rd just as of today. So we have 23 organizations that have proactively reached out to the Austin CVB and said if you pass this bill we will have to leave,” said Noonan.
Phillip Jones of Visit Dallas says they have received similar warnings.
"We've heard from the NFL, we've heard from the NBA we heard from the NCAA, they will not bring events to Texas if this legislation is passed. We have over $200 million worth of NCAA sanction events on the books for the next 18 months that are at risk,” said Jones.
Officials in San Antonio say they are already feeling the effects of SB6. It's claimed that at least 3 groups have already canceled events for this year and next year in the Alamo City. When asked who those groups were officials in San Antonio declined to identify them.
"The stories of any negative economic impact are just false narrative put forth by the opposition,” said Lt. Governor Dan Patrick at a statehouse briefing Monday morning.
To back up his confidence in that opinion Lt. Governor Patrick has brought in Dan Forest who is the Lt. Governor of North Carolina. Forest claims the bathroom bill which passed in his state, and is similar to SB6, also came with predictions of disaster.
"That most extreme impact equates to one/tenth of 1% of our annual GD, that’s the economic impact, one/tenth of 1% of our GDP. No businesses left North Carolina. No businesses left,” said Forest.
A coalition of church leaders also pledged to support SB6 claiming it’s not a stance against the transgender community.
"This is not about pitting one particular group against another; this is about public safety and decency,” said Pastor Mark Gonzales.
Those who feel they are being targeted by SB6 held their own rally to denounce the legislation. Among those to speak was Frank Gonzales who has a transgender child.
"This is who she is, how can anyone debate that, Libby is appreciated and fully accepted for who she is in her school environments this discriminatory Bill would completely turns her work upside down."
SB6 appears to have enough votes to clear the Texas Senate. At least one state democrat says he will vote for SB6. Brownsville Senator Eddie Lucio says he is supporting SB6 because to him it’s a matter of safety.
The legislation’s fate in the House still remains unclear.