Metro Weekly

Study: Homophobic states like Texas lose billions from hating gay people

Williams Institute estimates that anti-LGBTQ states lose billions in tourism revenue, healthcare costs and business backlash

Credit: Ted Eytan / Flickr

Finally, we can put a dollar amount on Republican-led homophobia, and their push for “bathroom bills” and “religious freedom” laws across the country.

A new study has revealed that states that enact anti-LGBTQ legislation are potentially losing billions of dollars each year.

It comes from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, which found that by not creating a supporting environment for LGBTQ people, states are incurring millions in associated healthcare costs and lost business and tourism revenue.

Texas, for instance, has been pushing hard for an anti-transgender “bathroom bill” that would restrict the public facilities trans people could use. It’s opposed by the business community and anyone with common sense, but loved by Republicans.

But by not being more hospitable to LGBTQ people, the state is racking up healthcare costs from the negative effects to mental health that comes from being cast as second-class citizens.

If Texas reduced the disparity in depression rates between LGBTQ people and the general population by just 25%, they’d save $290 million a year, for instance. If they could cut LGBTQ binge drinking, that’s $118 million saved. Emergency shelters and Medicaid expenses incurred from discrimination against transgender people? That would save $1.6 million.

“We’re not saying that the disparity is going to totally go away or that a certain law would completely close that gap, but we do say that these health outcomes that have been linked to minority stress do have a cause,” Williams Institute State and Local Policy Director Christy Mallory told The Daily Beast. “So we try to look at [the effects of] even narrowing that gap.”

The effects of ending LGBTQ discrimination can be seen elsewhere. Florida could save $224 million by cutting the disparity in LGBTQ smoking rates by just 25%. If Georgia did the same, they’d save $80 million.

And there’s costs the Williams Institute can’t estimate, such as those associated with the number of LGBTQ people in foster care, or those youth waiting to be adopted who can’t be placed with same-sex couples due to discriminatory practices.

In addition, there’s also the effect on tourism revenue, or revenue generated by travel from other states. When Mississippi recently passed a law allowing religious government officials and businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people, New York state banned all nonessential travel to the state.

North Carolina came under pressure from states, tourists, and the business, sports, and entertainment communities for its anti-transgender HB 2 “bathroom bill,” with the estimated losses of around $5 billion. The city of Charlotte alone lost an estimated $285 million and 1,300 jobs thanks to the law.

Last year, Texas was estimated to lose anywhere from $3.3 billion to $8.5 billion in tourism revenue and other costs should Republicans successfully pass a “bathroom bill.”

Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.