A coalition of LGBTQ-affirming business and tourism leaders gathered at the State Capitol in Austin on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to vote against discriminatory legislation.
Representatives of Texas Welcomes All, Texas Competes, the North Texas Commission, and the Texas LGBTQ Chambers of Commerce held a news conference on March 27 to speak against some recently introduced bills that would permit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“We are here in opposition to bills that create special protections and new religious [exemptions] to empower Texans to refuse to work with, serve, or care for their fellow Texans,” said Angela Hale, executive director of Texas Welcomes All.
The coalition, whose members represent thousands of employers and employees, spoke in opposition to 16 anti-LGBTQ bills, including SB 15, a preemption bill that features language that would override existing non-discrimination ordinances, and SB 17, a religious-exemption bill.
The Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs advanced SB 17 on Monday. If the bill became a law, State-licensed professionals could refuse to serve LGBTQ people by citing their “sincerely held religious beliefs” without any repercussions from their licensing boards.
Participants in Wednesday’s news conference said that discriminatory legislation is threatening Texas’ reputation as welcoming for businesses and tourists, which will negatively affect the state’s economy.
The coalition also stated its opposition to anti-LGBTQ legislation in a letter, which was sent to lawmakers on Wednesday. Amazon, Apple, Google, Dell, Facebook, Paypal, PepsiCo, and other major businesses that have offices in Texas have all signed the letter, which reads:
Texas’ strong, diverse economy is proof that a welcoming state pays off—in jobs and quality of life. Central to the state’s success in our opinion is a respect for inclusion and diversity among job creators, including the ability to attract and retain talent and service customers. Treating all people with dignity and respect is core to the state’s continued prosperity.
We will continue to oppose any unnecessary, discriminatory, and divisive measures that would damage Texas’ reputation and create problems for our employees and their families. These include policies that explicitly or implicitly allow for the exclusion of LGBTQ people, or anyone else, as well as the preemption of municipal nondiscrimination laws, in whole or in part. Such measures are inconsistent with an innovative, forward-facing Texas that we can all be proud of.
As businesses operating in the Lone Star state, we urge policy makers to remain committed to the things that matter: building a great public education system, continuing to foster a business-friendly climate, creating strong infrastructure that allows for even more jobs, and cultivating the quality of life so prized by both lifelong Texans and new arrivals to this wonderful state.
Watch Monday’s news conference here: