In an open letter sent to Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday, 55 Houston-area business leaders urged the governor to reconsider his support for the “bathroom bill” currently being considered in the state legislature, which would require transgender people to use restrooms in public buildings, including public schools, corresponding to the sex listed on their birth certificates rather than their expressed gender.
The signatories to the letter represent businesses belonging to the Greater Houston Partnership, an economic development group serving Texas’s second-largest metropolitan area, and include presidents, CEOs, regional managers, and other senior executives at companies such as Accenture, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical, Ernst & Young, ExxonMobil, Shell, and Siemens. In the letter, the business leaders state succinctly that they “support diversity and inclusion, and… believe that any such bill risks harming Texas’ reputation and impacting the state’s economic growth and ability to create new jobs”:
Innovative companies are driven by their people, and winning the talent recruitment battle is key. Any bill that harms our ability to attract top talent to Houston will inhibit our growth and continued success – and ultimately the success of our great state. We appreciate your leadership in Texas and urge you avoid any actions, including the passage of any “bathroom bill,” that would threaten our continued growth.
Monday’s letter is the third major show of opposition to the bill from corporate America, including companies based or heavily invested in the state of Texas. In May, leaders of major tech companies including Apple, Facebook, Google, and IBM sent an open letter to Abbott urging him not to pursue the bill, and in July, the CEOs of 14 Dallas-based companies implored lawmakers to drop it.
Like the Houston business leaders behind Monday’s letter, these CEOs couched their opposition primarily in terms of the bill’s impact on their ability to attract talent to Texas, as it would make not only transgender people, but also parents of transgender children and LGBT allies, think twice about taking a job in the state. More broadly, the leaders argue that the bill goes against their organization’s D&I goals and would enable discrimination and bullying.
While the proposed legislation would apply only to public facilities and not private organizations, employers have also expressed concern that “bathroom bills” would, in effect, teach students in public schools to discriminate against their transgender peers. As the leaders of 53 companies put it in their amicus brief in the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student who sued his local school board for the right to use the boy’s restroom, earlier this year, they “have an interest in ensuring that the education provided to this country’s youth prepares them for inclusive workplaces.”