Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas has proposed a bill to require transgender people to use the restroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificates, saying it is a top priority for him for the upcoming legislative session, which starts on Jan. 10. The state's legislature, which meets only in odd-numbered years for 140 calendar days, might also consider a proposal to expand a religious-freedom bill to cover religious objectors to same-sex marriage. Texas business leaders are speaking out against these moves.
At a dinner in New York City Tuesday night, Phillip Jones, president and CEO of VisitDallas, said he is ready to fight the measure as long as it takes. "It's so important that our hospitality industry and all of our partners understand what's at risk here and help us fight this bill so that it doesn't see the light of day, because it will have a devastating impact," Jones told the Dallas Morning News.
The bathroom law would be similar to HB2, which was passed in North Carolina in March, which caused many organizations to take the state off their lists for gatherings, including the NBA, which has moved its all-star game from Charlotte to New Orleans for 2017. The NCAA also has moved several multistate events out of North Carolina, and the American College Personnel Association canceled an event last June that was scheduled to take place in Charlotte.
The Texas Association of Business, a broad-based, conservative association that advocates for sensible public policy to grow and maintain a pro-business climate in Texas, has been particularly outspoken on the proposed legislation. The organization sponsored two studies
from St. Edward's University in Austin examining the attitudes of business owners in the state and lessons learned from other states that have enacted discriminatory laws. The association said the studies demonstrate that discriminatory legislation could:
• Result in significant economic losses in Texas' gross domestic product, with estimates ranging from $964 million to $8.5 billion;
• Result in significant job losses, with estimates as high as 185,000 jobs;
• Substantially hamper the state's ability to attract, recruit and retain top talent, especially among Millennials;
• Drastically impact the convention and tourism industry, which has a direct economic impact of $69 billion, generates more than $6 billion in state and local tax revenues, and directly and indirectly supports more than 1.1 million Texas jobs, according to statistics from the Texas Governor's Office, 2015;
• Serve as a catalyst for domestic and global companies to choose other states over Texas to start or expand their business;
• Alienate large, globally recognized businesses, including Apple, Google, Starbucks, British Petroleum, Marriott, IBM, PayPal and the National Football League, which have opposed this amendment and similar ones;
• Allow for an expansion in discrimination, which is counter to prevailing public opinion and conflicts with corporate policies that prioritize diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
"As we look ahead to the legislative session which begins in just five short weeks, we are here today to talk about common-sense steps that can be taken to protect the Texas economy from enormous harm," said Chris Wallace, president of TAB, during a press conference on the state capitol's steps on Tuesday. "We now face overwhelming data about the risk of damage to the economy and reputation of our great state resulting from legislation that would allow for discrimination. Businesses have come together from across the state to urge the Texas Legislature to reject discrimination and embrace public policy that keeps Texas open for business... We cannot slam the door on the Texas miracle of openness, competitiveness, economic opportunity and innovation."