Demonstrators protest a South Dakota bill that sought to bar transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming care in February 2020. The bill was defeated in committee. – Photo: Greg Latza/ACLU.
A coalition of more than 40 major corporations has released an open letter calling on lawmakers throughout the United States to cease their efforts to pass bills targeting LGBTQ people, and transgender youth in particular.
The signatories to the letter include a number of major businesses, including Apple, AT&T, Capital One, Dow Inc., Google, Hilton, Microsoft, Salesforce, Lyft, and Uber — all of whom have been outspoken in their opposition to other legislation targeting the LGBTQ community in past years.
In the letter, the signatories argue that their embrace of diversity and inclusion is better for their bottom lines, as well as being essential to recruiting and retaining top talent, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
They also argue that “inclusive business practices” lead to higher worker productivity, better on-the-job performance, and increased customer satisfaction — which, in turn, benefit the companies’ overall financial health and competitiveness.
“We are deeply concerned by the bills being introduced in state houses across the country that single out LGBTQ individuals — many specifically targeting transgender youth — for exclusion or differential treatment,” the letter reads.
“These bills would harm our team members and their families, stripping them of opportunities and making them feel unwelcome and at risk in their own communities,” the letter continues. “As such, it can be exceedingly difficult for us to recruit the most qualified candidates for jobs in states that pursue such laws, and these measures would place a substantial burden on the families of our employees who already reside in these states. Legislation promoting discrimination directly affects our businesses, whether or not it occurs in the workplace.”
The letter was issued in response to the passage of two bills targeting transgender youth in Arizona and Alabama. In Alabama, the state Senate passed a bill that would prohibit minors from being able to obtain gender-affirming medical treatments, such as puberty blockers, hormones, or surgery. Any doctor who prescribes such treatments — despite the fact that most doctors do not recommend gender confirmation surgery for trans youth — could face a prison term of up to 10 years.
Daniel Eggers, an 18-year-old transgender high school student, told reporters on a press call on Wednesday that gender-affirming medical care helped save his life at a time when he was suffering from depression he experienced when his physical body did not match his gender identity. After attempting suicide at age 11, he later developed an eating disorder to cope with his gender dysphoria.
“Denying me and children like me treatment would be criminal,” Eggers said. “This bill denies trans youth their fundamental right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This bill also denies medical evidence, and overrules medical professionals who understand the complexity of these issues.”
Identical bills have been introduced in several other states, with South Dakota coming the closest to passing such a measure last month. But South Dakota senators eventually rejected the bill in committee amid widespread public outcry and public demonstrations outside the State Capitol.
Related: American Academy of Pediatrics calls for “gender-affirming” approach to treating transgender youth
In Arizona, the state House of Representatives passed a bill that would bar transgender females from competing in individual or team sports that have been designated for women, and forcing athletes suspected of being transgender to submit to genetic tests.
A similar open letter, signed by a coalition of local and national businesses, has already been circulated to try and discourage Senate lawmakers and Gov. Doug Ducey (R) from green-lighting the bill, noting it would damage Arizona’s reputation as a business-friendly state.
LGBTQ advocates have been emboldened by, and are touting, a recent poll by Change Research, commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign, showing that 55% of Arizonans — including 58% of independents — agreed with the statement that the lawmakers supporting the bill are “further stigmatizing already vulnerable children to push their political agenda and further divide us.”
Furthermore, 64% of Arizonans believe legislators should be focused on other issues, and 55% of Arizonans do not trust the Republican majority in the legislature when it comes to LGBTQ issues.
National groups like HRC and Freedom for All Americans will be working with local organizations and advocates to hold “lobby days” where they will demonstrate and meet with lawmakers to discourage them from moving forward with the proposed bills.
“Business growth and innovation rely on states being open and welcoming to everyone, including the LGBTQ community,” Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “…The letter released today underscores the widespread corporate and public opposition to anti-LGBTQ legislation and clearly warns states that LGBTQ discrimination will harm states’ economic competitiveness.”
“America’s business community has consistently taken a strong stand opposing legislation that discriminates against LGBTQ workers and customers,” Kasey Suffredini, the CEO and national campaign director of Freedom for All Americans, said in a statement. “Business leaders understand that discrimination is bad for business, and their economic competitiveness relies on fair and inclusive work and community environments for their employees and their families.
“When states threaten to pass laws that discriminate, they’re jeopardizing future state economic development and risking driving business away. We’re proud of the business leaders who signed this letter,” Suffredini added. “They know how important it is for them to speak up when their team members and their families are threatened by misguided policies.”
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