A coalition of Texas companies is calling on the GOP-led Texas Legislature to scrap its anti-LGBTQ legislation.
During a Monday morning press conference convened by Texas Competes, an LGBTQ advocacy group for the Texas business community that includes backers like Amazon and Dell, Texas Competes Director Jessica Shortall said the anti-LGBTQ bills moving through the legislature are not supported by Texas voters and are a dangerous distraction from real issues faced by the state.
“Business leaders are sounding the alarm about the harm this entire category of legislation will do. We will continue to do so,” Shortall said. “And as humans, we express dismay at the harms to real people — our neighbors, our friends, our family members — that even having these so-called ‘debates’ inflict.”
Republican lawmakers in the state are pushing at least two dozen pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation through both chambers this session. Many of the bills target the healthcare of transgender youth, as well as their ability to participate in sports.
Last week, the Texas Senate passed an anti-trans sports ban bill and the House passed a transgender youth healthcare ban. The Texas Legislature currently leads the country for the highest number of anti-LGBTQ bills, according to the civil rights group Human Rights Campaign.
Servando Esparza, an executive director for TechNet, a D.C.-based technology trade and lobbying group that represents companies like Apple and Google, said the anti-LGBTQ bills were bad for Texas tech companies.
“Many of our members have operations here in Texas, they know better than anyone the global nature of competition for the talent that drives the innovation, profitability, and job creation that their companies are proud of,” Esparza said.
“Talented workers know that they can pick and choose where they want to live, and a big part of that choice is a culture of inclusion, opportunity, and safety for workers and their families,” he said.
Those thoughts were echoed by David Najjab, the director of institutional partnerships for the Frisco, Texas-based video game company Gearbox Entertainment (best known for the Borderlands series). Najjab said this session risked returning to the bathroom bill days of 2017, creating an atmosphere that would make it difficult to keep and recruit the “best and brightest” of Texas.
“Once again we hear from our workforce concerns for themselves, and their families, and their friends,” Najjab said. “We cannot afford to foster the image of Texas as an unfriendly place. Where kids are afraid to just be kids. Where people fear for their ability to access medical care. Or where discrimination has the force of law behind it.”
McKinney Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Hermes warned that anti-LGTBQ legislation would lead to event cancellations across the state. She said McKinney stands stood to lose at least $5 million from a loss of tourism if the bills passed.
Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce President John LaRue also warned of the economic damages to the state’s recovering tourism industry. “We can see documented history of tourism risks when Texas or any state pursues this line of thinking, we certainly saw it here in Texas in 2017 and we cannot afford to do so again,” LaRue said.
Gary Sanchez, a board member of the Texas LGBTQ Chambers of Commerce that represents more than 1,000 business members, said Texas children should be able to participate fully in their school community, and LGBTQ individuals of all ages should be able to access healthcare without being turned away.
“These discriminatory bills will tarnish Texas’ welcoming brand and will have a long-lasting negative effect to our economy, and more importantly, to our fellow Texans,” said Texas LGBTQ Chambers of Commerce board member Gary Sanchez said.
Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call