Texas business leaders and LGBT advocates hope economic backlash over an anti-LGBT bill in North Carolina will deter lawmakers from taking up similar legislation next year in Austin.
More than 100 CEOs and business leaders, including Apple’s Tim Cook and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, sent a letter this week to North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory calling on the General Assembly to repeal House Bill 2, which he signed last week.
The bill prohibits cities from enforcing LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances, and bars transgender people from using restrooms and other facilities according to their gender identity.
“We certainly don’t want Texas to appear to be unwelcoming for future talent, and that’s what I think we’ll get if something like North Carolina’s bill is taken up by our Legislature,” said Chris Wallace, president of the Texas Association of Business (TAB), the state’s chamber of commerce.
Last year, TAB came out against a sweeping anti-LGBT “religious freedom” bill, but didn’t take a position on proposals to ban local nondiscrimination ordinances or restrict restroom access for trans people. However, Wallace said TAB’s board may consider doing so at a September meeting where it will set its legislative agenda for 2017.
“Talent availability is the number one issue among businesses today in Texas,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we have future employees, and we don’t need any issues like this getting in our way.”
After more than 20 anti-LGBT bills were defeated in Texas last year, socially conservative groups criticized the business community for opposing them. And last week, Texas Pastor Council Executive Director Dave Welch responded to corporate backlash in North Carolina by calling the TAB opposition to anti-LGBT bills “huffing and puffing,” and described boycotts as “economic terrorism.”
“We stand with the pastors and legislators in North Carolina and our commitment is that we will defend what is right, decent, honorable and good for all citizens in Texas, including necessary legislation to defend our liberty and our families,,” Welch wrote in an email to the council’s members.
It would be nice to think that the backlash in North Carolina will be swift and severe enough to dissuade most legislators from even thinking about following down that path, but it’s clear that the zealots don’t care about any of that. What I hope is clear from that is that the business community comes to realize that being on the same side as those guys – in particular, supporting the same legislative candidates as those guys – will not work out well for them. Which brings me to the question of what are they going to do about that? To be fair, there’s not that much that can be done this year. Primaries are over, there are only a handful of runoffs to be decided, and as we know there aren’t that many competitive districts in November. That’s unfortunate, because the one message that is always received clearly is losing an election. Democrats should still make this an issue in their races, if only to offer clarity. If the business lobby doesn’t then deliver a few horse’s heads a the start of the next legislative session, then as with the immigration issue I don’t see why we should take their oft-expressed concerns seriously. They can do something about this if they want to. If they don’t, that tells you what you need to know.