Metro Weekly

Texas CEOs write letter to Republican leaders opposing bathroom bill

Letter sent to governor and other lawmakers before a vote on bathroom bill

Dallas, Texas, Credit: Raging Wire / Flickr

A group of top CEOs from the Dallas area have sent a letter to Republican lawmakers opposing a “bathroom bill” that would target transgender Texans for discrimination.

The letter, sent to Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Speaker Joe Straus, argues that the proposed bill would be detrimental to the state’s economy, as was the similarly crafted HB 2 in North Carolina.

The bill would restrict transgender people’s ability to access restrooms and changing spaces matching their gender identity.

The Senate, with Patrick as its leader, has been strongly supportive of the bill, but House lawmakers, including Straus, are concerned that an overly aggressive approach will hinder the state’s ability to attract LGBTQ-friendly businesses or retain top talent.

“For decades, Texas has been a magnet for business investment, job creation and a strong, diverse workforce because of the pro-growth environment created by state policy makers,” the CEOs’ letter reads. As CEOs of Dallas-based businesses, we’re writing to express our concern that the so-called “bathroom bill” that the Texas legislature is considering would seriously hurt the state’s ability to attract new businesses, investment and jobs.”

The letter has been signed by multiple CEOs, including Doug Parker, the CEO and chairman of American Airlines; Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T Inc.; Sean Donohue, the CEO of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport; Gary Kelly, chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines; and Richard Templeton, president and CEO of Texas Instruments.

“Our companies are competing every day to bring the best and brightest talent to Dallas. To that end, we strongly support diversity and inclusion,” the letter continues. “This legislation threatens our ability to attract and retain the best talent in Texas, as well as the greatest sporting and cultural attractions in the world. We appreciate your leadership in ensuring that Texas continues to be a model for public policies that create a climate for economic growth and job creation that’s second to none.”

The letter was released just one day before the Texas Legislature is expected to convene a special session focused on at least 20 bills being pushed by conservative interest groups, including two bathroom bills.

One bill, HB 46, would prevent municipalities from passing LGBTQ-inclusive legislation restricting transgender people’s access to restrooms, showers, and other facilities. The other, HB 50, would only place those restrictions on transgender-age schoolchildren and school-owned facilities.

Representatives from the business community and LGBTQ advocates rallied outside the State Capitol in Austin to protest the bathroom bill, reports the Austin American-Statesman. At the rally, the demonstrators cited the problem that recruiters could have in attracting talent, and the reticence of some businesses to relocate if they believe the climate is hostile to their LGBTQ employees.

They also noted that the tourism industry could take a hit if the bill were to pass, as conventions, concerts, and sporting events may pass over venues in the state if either version of the bill were to pass.

Patrick, the most stalwart defender of the bathroom bill, made statements to the Texas Public Policy Foundation implying that North Carolina’s economy was stable after lawmakers there passed the controversial HB 2 law.

He also claimed that Texas would not be impacted negatively by any anti-transgender measure, which he has portrayed as necessary to protect the privacy of women and children in shared public spaces.

But GLAAD has responded with a fact-check of Patrick’s claims, noting that three major conventions have already pulled out of the city of San Antonio, causing the city to lose out on an estimated $3 million in revenue.

GLAAD also noted that PolitiFact has estimated that North Carolina lost out on somewhere between $450 million and $630 million in revenue, and the state lost out on additional revenue when some companies, such as CoStar or PayPal, chose to relocate to other states.

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