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Texas Business Community Raises Voice in Debates Over Anti-LGBT Legislation

Owen Parry
Texas Tribune

The business community is playing an increasingly important role in debates over anti-LGBT legislation. And, following controversial bills in North Carolina and Mississippi, businesses across Texas are gearing up to take on similar bills in the legislature next year.

There have been times lately where economic arguments against so-called religious freedom laws have won out. Just this month, Georgia’s Republican Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a bill that would have given legal protection to businesses that deny services to LGBT people. The veto came after backlash from LGBT groups and the business community.

“Our actions on House Bill 757 are not just about protecting the faith-based community or providing a business-friendly climate for job growth in Georgia. I believe it is about the character of our state,” Gov. Deal said.

And this wasn’t a one-off. In 2013, Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a similar bill at the urging of business leaders like the Super Bowl host committee and the CEO of American Airlines.

“I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve," said Brewer.

But, there have been states where bills have been signed into law, and reaction from companies has been pretty swift. PayPal recently canceled plans to open a new global operations center in North Carolina after a bathroom bill that activists say discriminates against the transgender community was signed into law.

“Every time that happens we see an uptick in Texas employers and chambers and what-have-you signing our pledge," said Jessica Shortall with Texas Competes. Her group is working to create a unified voice in the Texas business community that says LGBT inclusion is good for the state’s economy. Shortall said every time an anti-LGBT bill gets national attention, more companies in Texas join.

“It’s proving out what the data was already telling us, that this is a true, real and present economic risk and something that the Texas business community has been very effective in keeping at bay by being proactive about," she said.

Shortall says the group publicly launched in 2015 with about 100 companies pledging. She says now Texas Competes has more than 850 companies pledging support for an LGBT-friendly climate in Texas.

Republican state leaders have asked state lawmakers to look into legislation next year that would protect religious freedom when it comes to things like adoption and shielding government workers who say performing certain job duties would violate their religious beliefs.

Ashley Lopez covers politics and health care. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.
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