Major U.S. corporations including Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook have joined with other business interests operating in Texas to denounce a slate of bills in the state legislature that they argue would harm queer Texans and damage the state’s economy.
The companies signed onto a letter published Wednesday decrying proposals that explicitly or implicitly attack LGBTQ people’s rights or seek to neutralize local nondiscrimination laws.
“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,” the letter states.
“Such measures are inconsistent with an innovative, forward-facing Texas that we can all be proud of.”
The message was posted online by Texas Welcomes All, a coalition of businesses and other organizations that seek to promote the state. It was also signed by Unilever, Salesforce, IBM, PayPal, PepsiCo, Ben & Jerry’s, more companies, multiple local chambers of commerce, local convention and visitors bureaus, and other entities.
The statement takes aim at a range of bills proposed in the state’s Republican-controlled legislature this year. Equality Texas, an LGBTQ advocacy group, says that one of the measures, Senate Bill 15, would undermine anti-discrimination ordinances enacted by San Antonio and other Texas cities. Another measure, Senate Bill 17, would give legal protections to state-licensed professionals, such as barbers, doctors, social workers and plumbers, who refuse to serve LGBTQ customers because of sincerely held religious beliefs.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) has named both bills as priorities. His spokesman Alejandro Garcia defended the proposals on Wednesday.
“Senate Bill 15 will protect Texas’ businesses from local officials who want to tell business owners how to run their companies. Senate Bill 17 will ensure that anyone can practice their profession in Texas without being forced to compromise their religious faith,” Garcia said in a statement to the Houston Chronicle. “The vast majority of business leaders in Texas know they have no greater ally than Lt. Gov. Patrick who is helping lead the fight to ensure the Texas economy remains number one in the nation and among the strongest in the world.”
Other bills would protect wedding vendors, judges in their capacity as marriage officiants, and medical professionals with conservative religious beliefs who don’t want to serve LGBTQ people.
In 2017, dozens of businesses and chambers of commerce in Texas joined forces to oppose legislation that would have required transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to the gender they were assigned at birth. That bill ultimately failed to pass.
Phillip Jones, president of Dallas’ convention and visitors bureau, told the Dallas News that these kinds of anti-LGBTQ measures harm the state’s tourism industry, small businesses and residents.
“Discrimination is again threatening Texas’ reputation as welcoming for businesses and families,” Jones said. “These bills create risk for vulnerable people and for businesses, workers, and communities.”