Big hurdles face Texas’ ‘bathroom bill’ ahead of first vote

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Big hurdles face Texas’ ‘bathroom bill’ ahead of first vote

By PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A North Carolina-style “bathroom bill” targeting transgender people faces big hurdles in Texas as Republican supporters stood with church leaders and others Monday to ratchet up political pressure ahead of a first vote this week.

Although the Texas bill is likely to sail through a Senate committee as early as Tuesday, the hotly contested measure faces a tough road ahead. It is opposed by corporate titans such as Facebook, Amazon, Google and American Airlines and celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Lawrence.

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North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a supporter of his state’s bathroom law known as HB2, is among those now enlisted to help brighten the outlook of the Texas bill. Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst also newly defended her bill in an op-ed over the weekend titled “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” borrowing a phrase Hillary Clinton popularized during a famous 1995 speech in China.

But both are confronting a major obstacle in the Texas House, which Republicans control overwhelmingly but has shown no appetite for a law that would require people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott also has not taken a clear side despite the national attention and backlash generated by the bill.

“North Carolina was the tip of the spear. We will be next,” Texas Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said. He stood with Forest and religious leaders while announcing what he called “Operation 1 Million Voices” to turn out supporters.

Patrick also insisted that he had 19 of 31 votes in the Senate needed in his chamber. One Democrat, Sen. Eddie Lucio, became the first member in his party Monday to publicly support the bill.

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The Texas bill is similar to a North Carolina law that prompted the NCAA to and NBA to move games elsewhere, PayPal to cancel expansion plans and Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam to cancel concerts.

The NBA and NFL have also warned Texas that passing the bill could cause the leagues to overlook the state when choosing sites for All-Star games and Super Bowls. Abbott slammed the NFL over the league’s criticism but has stopped short of coming out in support of the measure.