The Texas Association of Business (TAB) has formally come out against discriminatory anti-LGBT legislation, including so-called “bathroom bills.”
The board of the state’s 4,300-member chamber of commerce overwhelmingly approved a resolution Friday opposing “legislation that is seen as discriminatory and would impact workforce recruitment and/or cause a negative economic impact on the state,” according to TAB’s president, Chris Wallace.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has made restricting transgender restroom access one of his top priorities for the 85th Legislature, which convenes in January.
Wallace told the Observer that TAB members want to avoid the type of backlash North Carolina experienced over House Bill 2, which nullifies local nondiscrimination ordinances and requires trans people to use restrooms based on the sex they were assigned at birth. The law has cost the Tar Heel State an estimated $395 million, including the loss of the NCAA Final Four and NBA All-Star Game.
“We don’t want economic fallout here because of legislative action that could be prevented,” Wallace said. “We know it’s going to be a top issue, and because of that, business has to speak up.”
A spokesman for Patrick didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Patrick has said he was “totally disgusted” with the threat of economic backlash over anti-LGBT legislation, which he characterized as “nonsense” and “part of the propaganda of the political left.” In May, he vowed to stand up to business groups that oppose bathroom bills, including both TAB and Texas Competes, a coalition of more than 1,000 employers that have pledged to support LGBT inclusion.
“The Texas Association of Business, which I usually agree with … their association is wrong on this. This is not about equal rights. No one’s denying anyone their rights,” Patrick told the Observer at the GOP state convention in May.
On Saturday, one socially conservative lawmaker who’s previously authored anti-LGBT legislation also downplayed the threat of economic backlash.
During a panel discussion about bathroom bills at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Representative Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, accused the NCAA of hypocrisy because some of its corporate sponsors conduct businesses in countries with harsh anti-LGBT laws.
“I just wish they would be consistent,” Krause said.
Krause, whose district includes AT&T Stadium, a perennial contender for major sporting events, authored a sweeping anti-LGBT religious freedom amendment to the state Constitution in 2015. The TAB came out against Krause’s amendment as well as a similar proposal in the Senate, but didn’t take a formal position on other anti-LGBT bills during the 2015 legislative session.
“I think it’s unfortunate what happened in North Carolina, but I don’t anticipate that happening in Texas,” Krause told the Observer following Saturday’s panel discussion. “No matter where they take the NCAA Final Four, it’s going to have segregated bathrooms, and they’re going to more than likely have religious liberty bills on the books.”