Texas is the latest US state to consider a “bathroom bill” in its state legislature, which would require transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding to the sex listed on their birth certificates rather than their expressed gender. In yet another sign of their growing political influence, a group of major tech company CEOs sent a joint letter to Governor Greg Abbott this weekend, decrying the legislation as discriminatory and urging him to abandon it, Engadget reported on Monday:
“As large employers in the state, we are gravely concerned that any such legislation would deeply tarnish Texas’ reputation as open and friendly to businesses and families”, begins the tech companies’ letter to Abbott. “Our ability to attract, recruit and retain top talent, encourage new business relocations, expansions and investment, and maintain our economic competitiveness would all be negatively affected.”
“Discrimination is wrong and it has no place in Texas or anywhere in our country,” the letter continues. “Our perspective is grounded in our values and our long-held commitment to diversity and inclusion.”
The signatories to the letter include Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, IBM’s Ginni Rometty, Apple’s Tim Cook, and Google’s Sundar Pichai, along with chief executives or presidents from ten other major tech companies. The decision by these CEOs to wade into the controversy in Texas is reminiscent of how they and other large companies banded together to oppose similar legislation in North Carolina last year. While the companies represented in the letter don’t directly threaten to scale back their business operations in Texas because of the law, other organizations have done so, the Associated Press reports:
The NFL and NBA have hinted that approving it could cost Texas future top sporting events – even though Houston successfully hosted the Super Bowl in February. Leading businesses and lobbyists have also rejected the would-be law, and top Hollywood and music stars have hinted at state boycotts should it pass.
This widespread condemnation may be one reason why the bill now looks unlikely to pass in the current legislative session, according to the AP. The Texas legislature does not convene again until 2019, so Abbott would have to call a special session to get the bill passed before then.
In any case, the rights of transgender Americans are shaping up as a cause célèbre for tech sector leaders, who also publicly opposed President Donald Trump’s decision in March to rescind a directive issued by former president Barack Obama last year prohibiting schools from forcing transgender students to use restrooms designated for the gender they were assigned at birth, and signed an 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 after he was told he could not.
These corporate leaders maintain that their opposition to laws and regulations they consider discriminatory against transgender Americans and other members of the LGBT community is not merely a matter of personal principle: As the signatories to the Gavin Grimm amicus brief put it, major employers “have an interest in ensuring that the education provided to this country’s youth prepares them for inclusive workplaces.”