AUSTIN, Texas — Texas business leaders are speaking out against several pieces of legislation widely regarded as anti-transgender that are making their way through the Texas Legislature.
The Texas Senate last week heard Senate Bill 1646, which, if approved, would classify transition-related care as child abuse and could result in parents who support their children in that process going to prison and the kids being placed in foster care.
The Texas Senate also passed Senate Bill 29. It would prohibit transgender athletes from participating in grade school and high school sports outside of what is defined as their “biological sex.” Two similar bills in the House would include colleges and universities in that mandate. Both the House and Senate are also considering legislation that would restrict transgender children's access to health care.
Amazon, American Airlines, Facebook and Dell were among some of the more than 40 employers opposing the bills in a letter released Monday by Texas Competes, which is made up of more than 1,450 Texas employers, chambers of commerce, tourism bureaus and industry associations advocating the “economic case for equality.”
"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," business leaders said in the letter. "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."
Texas Competes held a press conference with business leaders and associations Monday morning to oppose the legislation. The executive director of TechNet, a network of technology CEOs and executives, was particularly concerned about what it could mean for tech companies.
“Texas is taking bold steps to become the economic powerhouse it is today. Any barriers to opportunity in Texas will make it harder for tech companies and other employers to convince other people to call this wonderful place home,” said Servando Esparza, who leads the Texas and southeast region of TechNet. “We respectfully ask lawmakers not to do anything that will make it more challenging for talented, highly educated workers that companies need to hire.”
The CEO of the McKinney Chamber of Commerce also spoke at Monday's press conference and warned about the potential economic fallout after the NCAA's announcement that they would only hold national championships in states where transgender student-athletes are allowed to participate. Texas is set to host several in the coming years including the 2023 men's and women's college basketball Final Four in Houston and Dallas, respectively.
"Past studies have shown that these events alone can have at least a $1 billion economic impact on our economy," Lisa Hermes, the McKinney Chamber of Commerce CEO, said. “If Texas continues down the path of leading the country in discriminatory legislation against the LGBTQ people, we know our talent pipeline will slow, we know people will move out of the state, and others won’t be willing to come to Texas, no matter how welcoming our communities strive to be.”