Texas Lawmakers Face More Corporate Pressure Over Transgender Bathroom Bill

Texas Lawmakers Face More Corporate Pressure Over Transgender Bathroom Bill

In a special session this week, the Texas state legislature is expected to debate a proposed “bathroom bill,” which would require transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the sex listed on their birth certificates rather than their expressed gender in public buildings, including public schools. LGBT advocates have decried the bill, similar to legislation proposed in North Carolina last year, as discriminatory and harmful to trans people, especially students in public schools. A number of major companies have also spoken out against the bill: In May, a group of tech CEOs including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, IBM’s Ginni Rometty, Apple’s Tim Cook, and Google’s Sundar Pichai sent a joint letter to Governor Greg Abbott, urging him to withdraw his support for the bill.

As the legislature draws closer to voting on the bill, IBM is stepping up its lobbying campaign against it, and major Texas-based companies are adding their voices to the chorus of employers asking legislators to discard it, J. Weston Phippen reports at the Atlantic:

IBM is the latest major company to step up its fight against Texas’s bathroom bill, which lawmakers will likely debate in the coming week as they work through a special session. IBM sent an internal memo Monday to employees around the world that called the bill discriminatory. The company also dispatched about 20 executives to persuade lawmakers against passing the bill. …

Another letter on Monday signed by 14 CEOs from Dallas-based companies like American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, AT&T, and Texas Instruments also urged legislators to drop the bill. “Our companies are competing every day to bring the best and brightest talent to Dallas,” the letter read. “To that end, we strongly support diversity and inclusion. This legislation threatens our ability to attract and retain the best talent in Texas, as well as the greatest sporting and cultural attractions in the world.”

This letter, like the one from the tech CEOs in May, focused not on the moral argument against the bathroom bill but rather on the effect a climate of intolerance would have on these employers’ ability to attract talent to the state, limiting their access not only to transgender employees, but also to LGBT allies who would not want to live in a place with discriminatory laws. The state has also faced threats of boycotts from sports leagues, including the NFL and NBA, and major film and music stars.

Opposition from corporate America, including threats to cancel planned workforce expansions, along with the prospect of similar boycotts played a significant role in the ultimate defeat of the North Carolina bathroom bill last year, even though it had the strong support of then-governor Pat McCrory. Major companies, especially but not only in the tech sector, have taken a strong stance against federal and state efforts to limit protections for trans people this year, indicating the degree to which inclusivity has become a core business value for many American companies.