Friday, September 16, 2016

Dear Texas: The NCAA Seems to Be Taking This Whole Non-Discrimination Thing Seriously

Posted By on Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 7:30 AM

COURTESY
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This week, the NCAA made good on its threat to pull major events from states that pass laws that discriminate against their LGBTQ citizens. Following North Carolina's passage of a law earlier this year that quashes any local ordinances that shield lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination, the organization announced on Monday night that all its championship tournament games for the coming academic year would be moved out of state.

All of which could spell trouble for cities like San Antonio, which is set to host the NCAA Men's Final Four in 2018, as the Texas Legislature heads back into session in January with some lawmakers dead-set on reviving North Carolina-style anti-LGBTQ legislation. 

The NCAA's decision to pull tournament games from North Carolina comes after it sent questionnaires earlier this summer to all cities interested in hosting any future NCAA championships, including cities like San Antonio that have already been named host sites. As it stands, local officials say, San Antonio's in the clear — three years ago, council added gender identity and sexual orientation to its non-discrimination ordinance, and the city has since hired a so-called diversity and inclusion officer and created a dedicated website that's supposed to be a one-stop shop for non-discrimination complaints. Mayor Ivy Taylor told us earlier this year that she believes city policy "directly aligns with the NCAA’s commitment to anti-discrimination.”

Which might change if people like Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick get their way. Patrick, a staunch conservative who's lobbied against local non-discrimination ordinances in cities like San Antonio and Houston and has championed the state's lawsuit against transgender-inclusive policies in public schools, is among those in the legislature who have supported North Carolina-style laws here in Texas. The very same day the NCAA pulled its championship games from North Carolina, Texas Republican state Rep. Matt Shaheen unveiled legislation he plans to file in the next session that essentially mirrors the North Carolina law. According to a draft bill Shaheen first shared with a north Texas TV station, the measure would undo local non-discrimination ordinances in cities like Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Plano and San Antonio.

That's probably why local leaders, like District 9 Councilman Joe Krier, are calling for cities to take the fight to the legislature this session to ensure social conservatives don't jeopardize big, money-making events, like San Antonio's Final Four in 2018. Krier, chairman of the city’s economic development committee, told the San Antonio Business Journal this week, "What we are doing with our (legislative) delegation is communicating the importance of the economic impact these events have on our visitor industry."

While the session is still months away, there's already signs the debate over LGBTQ rights will again be front and center at the legislature this year, as conservative activists vow to turn Texas into "the next battleground." And while Shaheen tells reporters he's ready to "die on this issue politically," leaders in San Antonio seem to be hoping the city doesn't suffer for it. 

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