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Texas employers issue letter urging lawmakers not to pass anti-LGBTQ bills

Business leaders say anti-equality bills sully Texas's reputation as a welcoming place for businesses, as well as LGBTQ people.

texas
A view of the dome of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas – Photo: Clark Van Der Beken.

A coalition of Texas employers has written a letter urging lawmakers to stop pursuing pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation, arguing that the negative press the states receives every time an anti-equality bill is introduced undermines the state’s efforts to attract business opportunities.

The letter was signed by 55 members of Texas Competes, a partnership of business leaders committed to ensuring Texas is welcoming and affirming of LGBTQ people.

Texas Competes has been deeply involved in the fight against anti-LGBTQ legislation, with members testifying against various measures, including SB 2, a bill seeking to bar transgender athletes from competing in their gender identity.

Among the companies signing the letter are Amazon, American Airlines, Apples, Bain and Company, bp America, Dell Technologies, Dow, Facebook, IBM Corporation, Levi Strauss & Co., Marriott International, PayPal, and the Texas LGBTQ Chambers of Commerce.

“We have long strived to make our workplaces safe and welcoming for everyone we employ. But the fullness of our team members’ lives, and the lives of their families, stretch well beyond the workplace. They live in their communities, where they rent or own homes, shop, go out to eat, take transportation, seek and access healthcare, and participate in community and school activities,” the letter reads. “They deserve to feel safe, welcome, and treated with dignity in those settings, too.

“That’s why we support the inclusion of LGBTQ people in nondiscrimination laws, including policy that would update Texas’ nondiscrimination laws to include LGBTQ people,” the letter continues.

“Such policies simply recognize what we as Americans have long agreed: discrimination is real, and it can hold people back from their full potential to work hard, earn a living, support their families, and participate in and contribute to their communities.”

The business leaders of Texas Competes also said they were concerned about various bills targeting the LGBTQ community, including the transgender sports ban — which was brought up during the regular session, a special legislative session earlier this year, and the ongoing special session — and other bills.

The bill has passed the Senate multiple times, but has yet to be passed by the House of Representatives, which tends to be more cautious about wading into controversial social issues.

According to the LGBTQ rights group Equality Texas, lawmakers introduced 62 different measures targeting or affecting members of the LGBTQ community, including: bills to bar transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming medical care, including one that would have classified the parents of transgender youth as “child abusers” for allowing their children to access various treatments; measures to protect the conscience rights of health care workers; prohibit state officials from enforcing certain federal executive orders; creating exemptions that allow individuals to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on “sincerely held religious beliefs” opposing homosexuality; and prohibiting minors from amending the gender marker on their birth certificates.

Related: Texas Governor Greg Abbott claims gender-affirming surgeries for minors are “child abuse”

“We are concerned to see a resurgence of efforts to exclude transgender youth from full participation in their communities, to criminalize or ban best-practice medical care that is proven to save lives, or to exclude LGBTQ people in a variety of other settings, including accessing healthcare, filling a prescription, or seeking legal representation,” the signatories to the Texas Competes letter wrote.

“Such legislation would send a message that is at odds with the Texas we know, and with our own efforts to attract and retain the best talent and to compete for business,” the letter continues. “We will continue to oppose any unnecessary, divisive measures that would damage Texas’ reputation and make our customers, our visitors, and our employees and their families feel unwelcome or unsafe.”

Critics of anti-LGBTQ bills say they hurt companies’ ability to recruit and retain talent, and discourage tourism and businesses that might be looking to relocate to or expand operations in the Lone Star State.

“The businesses that have signed onto the letter want to make it clear that issues that negatively impact the LGBTQ community, including transgender kids, also negatively impact business,” says Jessica Shortall, the managing director for Texas Competes. “And the reason for that is that people have families. People that work for businesses, the talent these companies need to to make their business happen every day, don’t live at the office. They’ve got spouses or partners. They’ve got kids. They live in their communities. They go to school, go out to eat, seek out health care, do all of those things.

“So the idea from businesses — and we hear this constantly — is that when we have these ongoing unnecessary, evidence-less attacks on and targeting of LGBTQ people and especially children, it hurts talent recruitment and retention because it sends the message that the state is just going to keep continue its kind of commitment to being anti-LGBTQ and businesses over and over,” she added.

David Najjab, director of institutional partnerships for the Frisco, Texas-based video gaming company Gearbox, speaks against a bill to ban transgender athletes from sports. – Photo: Equality Texas.

A report by the Perryman Group, issued last year, found that if Texas passed an inclusive law that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, it would lead to increases in technology-oriented business activity in the state of $11.6 billion in annual gross product and approximately 103,800 jobs as of 2025, with those gains rising to $89.5 billion in annual gross product and nearly 594,100 jobs by 2045.

The report also estimated that the annual fiscal benefits of passing an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law would be $1.2 billion to the state and $0.9 billion to localities.

One of the businesses that signed onto the Texas Competes letter, Gearbox, a Frisco, Texas-based video game company, has previously spoken out against anti-LGBTQ legislation, with David Najjab, the company’s director of institutional partnerships, testifying against various pieces of legislation, both earlier this session and on Tuesday, when the House Public Education Committee held a hearing on the bill.

Speaking at a press conference hosted by Equality Texas on Tuesday, Najjab declared the transgender sports ban an unnecessary piece of legislation.

“[This bill] really hurts businesses like ours in terms of talent recruitment, and it’s not just us,” he said. “That’s true for all the tech companies, that’s true for anybody that’s hiring high-skilled workers. It makes Texas seem unfriendly and not a good place to be. Texas should be a good place to come, and a friendly place. That is what Texans are, and that’s what our reality should be. I hope this bill is killed.”

Related: Texas mom stops “ex-trans” activist from harassing her trans son in the bathroom

Najjab previously testified at the State Capitol in April, during the regular legislative session, telling lawmakers that anti-LGBTQ bills could force Gearbox to look elsewhere for places to expand its business, according to PC Gamer.

“Our game company is in competition worldwide. We export more than — we sell more to Asia than we do in the United States. We bring a lot of money into this state, we’re headquartered here,” Najjab warned at the time. “Don’t drive us to where we have to start expanding outside of Texas and outside the country.”

Ricardo Martinez, the CEO of Equality Texas, also warned of the negative impact that any legislation viewed as hostile to the LGBTQ community could wreak on the state.

“When lawmakers push dangerous rhetoric about transgender people and try to restrict their rights and freedoms, it sends a message not only to individuals, but also to companies, that Texas is not a welcoming place,” Martinez said in a statement. “These lawmakers are giving Texas this bad reputation, that it’s not a place for employers to recruit and build strong teams and it’s not a place that people will want to travel to for vacation or move to when they want to raise a family.

“Anti-transgender bills are costing kids their well-being, and our kids’ future is priceless, but research can show us that these bills are costing taxpayers millions, too,” he added. “We can all agree that lawmakers should focus on policies that bolster real economic opportunities, and bring jobs and revenue to our communities, instead of pointless fear-mongering about transgender kids.”

See also:

Israel lifts restrictions on blood donations for gay and bisexual men

Congressman Ritchie Torres wants to mandate vaccines for all air travelers

Tennessee school calls police on Black student who defended trans classmate from bullies

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