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News flash: Businesses still hate bathroom bills

IBM hates them.

As state lawmakers return to Austin for legislative overtime, tech giant IBM is stepping up its fight to defeat legislation it says would discriminate against children and harm its Texas recruiting efforts.

In an internal email sent Monday to thousands of employees around the world, IBM’s human resources chief outlined the New York-based company’s opposition to what the letter described as discriminatory proposals to regulate bathroom use for transgender Texans. IBM sent the letter to employees the same day it dispatched nearly 20 top executives to the Lone Star State to lobby lawmakers at the state Capitol. A day earlier, it took out full-page ads in major Texas newspapers underlining its opposition to legislation that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and a cadre of far-right lawmakers have deemed a top priority.

“Why Texas? And why now? On July 18th, the Texas legislature will start a thirty-day special session, where it is likely some will try to advance a discriminatory ‘bathroom bill’ similar to the one that passed in North Carolina last year,” wrote Diane Gherson, IBM’s senior vice president for human resources. “It is our goal to convince Texas elected officials to abandon these efforts.”

[…]

The email IBM sent to employees on Monday echoed concerns businesses voiced in their letter to Abbott earlier this year, saying the company — which has more than 10,000 employees in Texas — is focused on defeating the bathroom proposals because they’re detrimental to inclusive business practices and fly in the face of “deep-rooted” values against discrimination targeting LGBT people.

“A bathroom bill like the one in Texas sends a message that it is okay to discriminate against someone just for being who they are,” Gherson, the company’s HR chief, wrote.

As do other companies.

CEOs from 14 leading employers in the Dallas area, including AT&T, American Airlines and Texas Instruments, are taking a public stand against a “bathroom bill” that would discriminate against transgender people in Texas.

On Monday morning, they delivered a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus. A bathroom bill, the letter says, “would seriously hurt the state’s ability to attract new businesses, investment and jobs.”

“Our companies are competing every day to bring the best and brightest talent to Dallas,” the letter says. “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.”

The letter is signed by Randall Stephenson of AT&T, Doug Parker of American Airlines, Gary Kelly of Southwest Airlines, Kim Cocklin of Atmos Energy, Matthew Rose of BNSF Railway, Mark Rohr of Celanese, Harlan Crow of Crow Holdings, Sean Donohue of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Emmitt Smith of EJ Smith Enterprises, Fred Perpall of the Beck Group, David Seaton of Fluor, Thomas Falk of Kimberly-Clark, Trevor Fetter of Tenet Healthcare and Richard Templeton of Texas Instruments.

As the story notes, these efforts join other efforts by businesses to stop this thing. Such efforts have been met with an indifference bordering on hostility and contempt by Abbott and especially Patrick. I appreciate what all these companies and groups like TAB and the various chambers of commerce and visitors’ bureaus have done so far, which has been a tremendous help in keeping this awful legislation from reaching Abbott’s desk. But the big question remains what they will do after the special session gavels out, whatever the outcome of these efforts. I’ve had this question for a long time now. Between potty politics and the anti-immigration fervor of SB4, a lot of damage has already been done to our state’s reputation, and the men in charge keep wanting to do more. They’re not going to go away if they lose this session – they have the zealous will and a crap-ton of money powering them. Will these business interests, who have been getting so badly served by politicians they have generally supported, or at least tacitly accepted, in the past, put their money where their press conferences are and actively oppose Abbott and Patrick and their legislative enablers? Or will they bend over and take another lash from the paddle? One wonders at this point what they think they have to lose. The Chron has more.

How bad is the “Patrick Lite” bathroom bill?

For one view, there’s this, from Texas Competes:

A review of press coverage shows that the Texas “bathroom bill” debate generated $216 million in publicity for the state of Texas in the period from January 10, 2016 through May 22, 2017.

During the 85th Texas legislative session, 25,774 local, state, and national articles were written about the efforts to pass bathroom and changing room restrictions on transgender adults and children. More than 20,000 of these articles were published outside of Texas.

The media tracking service Meltwater was used to generate the data; its language-detecting algorithm deemed 73% of the coverage, or $155.5 million, “neutral;” 25%, or $56.4 million, “negative;” and 2%, or $4 million, “positive.” A review of coverage categorized as “positive” by the software revealed that these stories largely described efforts by performing artists, businesses, sports organizations and others to protest “bathroom bills.” Overall, the sentiment calculated across all news coverage was deeply negative, as seen in the chart below. (The February 2017 spike in sentiment was largely related to a “positive” story covering the NBA’s decision to move its All-Star Game from Charlotte to the LGBT-inclusive city of New Orleans.)

The topic of bathroom restrictions for transgender Texans has been shepherded into the spotlight by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and vocal anti-LGBT backers like Empower Texans, Conservative Republicans of Texas, and Texas Values.

Texas business leaders and small business owners have consistently cited the war for talent as a major concern related to the state’s anti-LGBT reputation. “HR executives and business leaders voice concern to us when stories about discrimination dominate the news about Texas,” said Jessica Shortall, Managing Director of Texas Competes, a coalition of nearly 1,300 Texas employers and chambers of commerce making the economic case for an LGBT-friendly Texas. “We cannot maintain the pipeline of talent needed to fuel this state’s economy in the face of national coverage that tells young workers that Texas is in the business of discrimination.”

In a February UT/TT 2017 poll, a majority of Texans said that it’s “not important” for the legislature to pass a bathroom law. In March, the Public Religion Research Institute released a poll showing that 53% of Americans oppose laws requiring transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond to their sex at birth. In a recent USA TODAY poll, Americans aged 18 to 35 – a group representing the current and future talent pool for many Texas employers – oppose bathroom laws by nearly a two-to-one ratio.

You know how they say there’s no such thing as bad publicity? This will be a test of that. And I’m sure North Carolina’s glad we’re getting all the attention for being transphobic and unwelcoming now. It’s taking some of the heat off of them.

As bad as the perception is, the reality may be somewhat less harsh, though that remains to be seen.

“I think it’s going to depend on how people interpret the amendment,” said Dax Gonzalez, assistant director of governmental relations for the Texas Association of School Boards, which represents the state’s school districts and provides guidance to them on policies related to transgender students.

Under Paddie’s interpretation, the amendment would nix existing trans-inclusive policies at some school districts that allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice at school. (Some Texas school districts allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity through formal policies or on a case-by-case basis.)

But the school board association, which endorsed the measure on Sunday night, argues school districts could probably maintain such policies, possibly with a few tweaks, because of the measure’s “flexibility.”

“I think what it boils down to is that this amendment is pretty flexible and open to interpretation,” Gonzalez added.

[…]

After the Sunday vote, Straus suggested the Paddie amendment would not require schools to make significant modifications to how they “handle sensitive issues.”

School groups agree because providing single-stall facilities for students seeking bathroom-related accommodations is something school districts “would do anyway,” so the amendment doesn’t make a “significant change” on that front, said Jennifer Canaday, governmental relations director for the Association of Texas Professional Educators.

When it comes to the amendment’s possible effects on efforts to accommodate transgender students beyond single-occupancy bathrooms, Canaday echoed the school board association in saying there was “enough ambiguity” in the amendment to allow for different interpretations by school districts.

But she indicated that the school group — which deemed bathroom-related legislation “a solution in search of a problem” — was still sifting through any possible repercussions for trans-inclusive policies in place across the state.

“Obviously there’s some confusion,” she said. “It may take some time [to figure out] how school districts interpret this.”

I strongly suspect that more forward-thinking districts like HISD will continue to accommodate trans students as best they can, while districts with jerks for Superintendents like Pearland ISD will take a hard line. It will inevitably be up to the courts to sort it out.

One major danger zone in all this is privacy concerns.

The measure poses an excruciating dilemma for Texas schools that have quietly agreed at parents’ requests to keep secret the birth genders of some students.

To comply with state law, teachers might have to send transgender students to the bathroom of their birth gender or to a single-occupancy bathroom, shocking their peers.

The legislation “really boxes in school systems,” said Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, a spokeswoman for the national transgender rights organization Trans Equality.

[…]

Currently, each school and school district determines how to handle students whose birth genders are secret — a small portion of Texas’ thousands of transgender minors. A survey conducted by the Williams Institute at UCLA indicated that 13,800 Texas teens identify as transgender, but the number of children under age 13 is not known.

Even if this law isn’t quite as bad as it could be, given its limited reach, it’s still potentially catastrophic for thousands of children. Not everyone is out, and not everyone wants to be, but what is a school to do with a trans kid who doesn’t want his or her classmates to know about that? Trans kids are already at an elevated risk for suicide. When something bad happens, don’t say we weren’t warned. The DMN, Burkablog, and Deadspin, both of which note the lack of any response so far from the NCAA, have more.

UPDATE: The Senate will reject the “Patrick Lite” amendment in SB2078. Nothing good can come of this.

Amendment focused on school bathrooms passes the House

I had some hope that we could make it through this session without something like this happening, but clearly we could not.

Amid threats of a special legislative session over the “bathroom bill,” the Texas House on Sunday took a last-minute vote to approve a proposal that would keep transgender students from using school bathrooms that match their gender identity.

The House voted 91-50 to amend Senate Bill 2078 — which focuses on school districts’ “multihazard emergency operations plans” — to add bathroom restrictions that some Republicans had pushed for since the beginning of the legislative session.

Throughout the tense floor debate, Republicans insisted the legislation was not meant to target transgender students, while Democrats likened the proposal to Jim Crow-era policies that segregated bathroom use based on race. Under the proposal, a transgender student who “does not wish” to use a facility based on “biological sex” would instead use single-stall restrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities at their school.

“White. Colored. I was living through that era … bathrooms divided us then, and it divides us now,” Democratic state Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston, a black woman, told her colleagues. “America has long recognized that separate but equal is not equal at all.”

Saying the amendment would provide “definitive guidance” to school districts, Republican state Rep. Chris Paddie of Marshall argued that his amendment language did not discriminate “against anyone.”

“This is does not provide an accommodation for a protected class of students. This provides an accommodation for all students,” Paddie said.

But the adopted amendment could override existing trans-inclusive policies at some school districts that allow transgender children to use the bathroom of their choice.

[…]

Gov. Greg Abbott, who was largely silent on the issue throughout the legislative session, recently endorsed the bathroom legislation as a priority. His office had insisted that he believed the legislation could be passed during the regular legislative session.

But Straus on Sunday said the governor made clear “he would demand action on this in a special session, and the House decided to dispose of the issue in this way.”

After Sunday’s vote, Straus suggested in a statement that the amendment would not drastically alter the way in which schools have handled “sensitive issues,” and would help the state “avoid the severely negative impact of Senate Bill 6.”

“Members of the House wanted to act on this issue and my philosophy as Speaker has never been to force my will on the body,” Straus said of the vote despite his opposition to bathroom-related legislation.

[…]

Despite the whittled-down version that was ultimately voted on, Democrats refused to characterize the legislation in any other way but a “bathroom bill.”

“Let’s be honest and clear here: This amendment is the bathroom bill, and the bathroom bill is an attack on transgender people,” said state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso. “Some people don’t want to admit that. Maybe that’s because they’re ashamed, but make no mistake about it — this is shameful.”

Let this be a lesson, kids – hostage-taking is often a successful strategy. I get why Straus and company thought passing what RG Ratcliffe called “Patrick Lite” might be an effective way to mollify the angry wraith Dan Patrick, but discrimination is still discrimination, and Patrick wasn’t mollified by the House’s inadequate sacrifice anyway, because nothing less than everything he wants is ever enough for him. Let this be a lesson to you, Texas Association of Business and others – Dan Patrick and his cronies are your opponents, and he will never go away on this. If there isn’t a special session or a further attempt at appeasement, he will continue his jihad in 2019. Unless, of course, he’s not there presiding over the Senate. You can maybe help make that happen if you want to. What do you have to lose? The Chron, the Observer, the Press, and Equality Texas have more.

The North Carolina bathroom bill price tag

How does $3.76 billion, at a minimum, grab you?

Despite Republican assurances that North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” isn’t hurting the economy, the law limiting LGBT protections will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Over the past year, North Carolina has suffered financial hits ranging from scuttled plans for a PayPal facility that would have added an estimated $2.66 billion to the state’s economy to a canceled Ringo Starr concert that deprived a town’s amphitheater of about $33,000 in revenue. The blows have landed in the state’s biggest cities as well as towns surrounding its flagship university, and from the mountains to the coast.

North Carolina could lose hundreds of millions more because the NCAA is avoiding the state, usually a favored host. The group is set to announce sites for various championships through 2022, and North Carolina won’t be among them as long as the law is on the books. The NAACP also has initiated a national economic boycott.

The AP analysis (http://apne.ws/2n9GSjE ) — compiled through interviews and public records requests — represents the largest reckoning yet of how much the law, passed one year ago, could cost the state. The law excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from statewide antidiscrimination protections, and requires transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public buildings.

Still, AP’s tally ( http://bit.ly/2o9Dzdd ) is likely an underestimation of the law’s true costs. The count includes only data obtained from businesses and state or local officials regarding projects that canceled or relocated because of HB2. A business project was counted only if AP determined through public records or interviews that HB2 was why it pulled out.

Some projects that left, such as a Lionsgate television production that backed out of plans in Charlotte, weren’t included because of a lack of data on their economic impact.

The AP also tallied the losses of dozens of conventions, sporting events and concerts through figures from local officials. The AP didn’t attempt to quantify anecdotal reports that lacked hard numbers, or to forecast the loss of future conventions.

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan — who leads the largest company based in North Carolina — said he’s spoken privately to business leaders who went elsewhere with projects or events because of the controversy, and he fears more decisions like that are being made quietly.

“Companies are moving to other places because they don’t face an issue that they face here,” he told a World Affairs Council of Charlotte luncheon last month. “What’s going on that you don’t know about? What convention decided to take you off the list? What location for a distribution facility took you off the list? What corporate headquarters consideration for a foreign company — there’s a lot of them out there ̵— just took you off the list because they just didn’t want to be bothered with the controversy? That’s what eats you up.”

[…]

Supporters are hard-pressed to point to economic benefits from the law, said James Kleckley, of East Carolina University’s business college.

“I don’t know of any examples where somebody located here because of HB2,” he said. “If you look at a law, whether or not you agree with it or don’t agree with it, there are going to be positive effects and negative effects. Virtually everything we know about (HB2) are the negative effects. Even anecdotally I don’t know any positive effects.”

The applicability of this to Texas is, I trust, clear to all. It’s that last point I want to zero in on for a minute. You can quibble wit the AP’s numbers if you want – I haven’t given them a close look as yet – though as he story notes if anything they are being conservative in their calculations. But even Dan Patrick isn’t arguing that SB6, like North Carolina’s HB2, would be an economic boon for Texas. He’s merely claiming that it won’t do any economic harm. Even if it were possible to put aside the human cost of SB6, isn’t that an awfully weak argument to make? Trust me, it won’t hurt a bit, and all those people with all their numbers who are saying otherwise are just trying to scare you. Is that really the best they have? Think Progress has more.

Senate passes bathroom bill

Take your victory lap, Dan Patrick.

The Texas Senate on Tuesday tentatively signed off on the so-called “bathroom bill” on a 21-10 vote with one Democrat — state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville — voting in favor of the bill.

Senate Bill 6, a legislative priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, would require transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and other publicly-owned facilities that match their “biological sex” and not gender identity. And it would preempt local anti-discrimination laws meant to allow transgender residents to use public bathrooms that match their gender identity.

The vote on the controversial legislation came after a four-and-a-half-hour debate over discrimination against transgender Texans, local control and whether the proposed regulations would actually deter men from entering women’s restrooms.

Before passing the bill, senators considered 22 amendments. Republican senators joined the bill’s author, state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, in rejecting all but three amendments that make minor tweaks to the legislation but did not alter the main bathroom policies proposed in the legislation.

More than a dozen amendments were rejected including one that would have added discrimination protections for transgender individuals to the bill and another that would have prohibited individuals from personally investigating the gender identity of someone using a public bathroom. The Senate also rejected amendments that would have required the state to study the bill’s economic impact as well as crimes that occur in bathrooms.

You know the story by now, so I’ll just skip ahead. The Senate has to take one more vote on this, but that will be a formality. All the Republicans and the one Democrat who sorely needs to be primaried supported this atrocity. It’s up to the House to kill it, whether by neglect or by voting it down. Two things to call your attention to: One is the statement from the Texas Association of Business.

“We’re disappointed the Texas Senate would choose to pass discriminatory legislation like Senate Bill 6, despite clear indications that its passage will have an economic impact in Texas. TAB remains committed to fighting and defending the Texas economy against bills that discriminate and run counter to Texas values.

“Our members believe everyone deserves to be treated fairly and equally, and we have heard what they know- equity and non-discrimination is a twenty-first century economic imperative. Senate Bill 6 is simply not worth the risk, and it will do nothing to improve personal safety.

“Given the overwhelming economic evidence, and the clear rejection of the public safety argument from Texas law enforcement, Senate Bill 6 is a solution in search of a problem, and we hope that the Texas House will strongly reject this measure.”

RG Ratcliffe notes how business has lost control of the Republican Party. I’ll just say it again, if the TAB doesn’t work to defeat at least a few of the SB6 advocates, starting with Dan Patrick, then their opposition to SB6 basically meant nothing. Yes, there is a risk in trying to kill the king. This, and bills worse than it, is the risk of doing nothing. Your choice, TAB. And two, I give you this Statesman story on Jessica Shortall of Texas Competes:

Jessica Shortall, head of a Texas business group that advocates for LGBT rights, delivered a thoughtful and impassioned speech about the transgender bathroom debate at the South by Southwest conference on Sunday. It was the kind of speech that brought the crowd to its feet for a standing ovation — twice.

[…]

Shortall’s speech sprinkled anecdotes of her own life, touched on the Texas Competes mission, and worked in themes such as why it’s important to find common ground with political opponents.

“Assume there are no monoliths,” Shortall said. “The second you do that and label a whole group, you miss all the opportunities to find allies and build bridges.”

[…]

On Sunday, with a notepad in one hand and a handful of photos and data points projected on to a screen, she emphasized the need to build bridges with people who hold different beliefs, of finding common ground by rooting arguments in data, not emotion.

Midway through the speech she told the story of a trasngender girl who had an accident in a hallway at school because teachers couldn’t figure out which bathroom she should use.

“I wanted to shout,” Shortall said. “But I took a breath.” She noted that it feels good to be ideological and righteous, and isn’t as fun to stick to a strategy that involves talking to the other side and find common ground.

“Do you think I wanted to be the most boring, most data-driven LGBT advocate in the country?” Shortall said. “I am half-Venezuelan, raised in New Jersey, a very loud person. I like things big. But my job is to create this delicate new space for the business community to get involved in something risky. If I burn that down with my anger, I’d be at zero. I don’t matter. What matters is the goal.”

But she noted that arguments based on data and facts can only get you so far. To create change, you have to tap into empathy and love, she said. “Love is the only bridge that lets us see the people around us simply as people,” she said.

You can see a video of her speech here. I’ll take ten Jessica Shortalls over all 21 Senators who voted Yes on this piece of crap. A statement from Sen. Jose Rodriguez is here, a statement from Sen. Borris Miles is here, and the Chron has more.

Again, there is no such thing as an acceptable bathroom bill

The current strategy for Dan Patrick in trying to round up support for, or at least blunt opposition to, his bathroom bill is to claim that it will contain exceptions for sports venues, so no one needs to worry about boycotts or other bad things. Unfortunately for Dan, no one is buying it, and the actual lived experience of North Carolina remains the prime piece of evidence why.

But in the shadow of the millions of dollars in lost tourism-related revenue in North Carolina, opponents of the Texas bill warn that perception trumps specifics when it comes to business and that the exemption may not prevent Texas from feeling the economic repercussions that riddled the Tar Heel State.

“We have discussed that with our meeting planners and sports organizers — they don’t care about the nuances,” said Visit Dallas CEO Phillip Jones, whose group is among a coalition of Texas tourism bureaus and commerce chambers organizing in opposition to SB 6. “Perception is reality, and if there’s a perception that there’s a discrimination taking place in Texas that’s sanctioned by the state as a result of this bill, they will bypass Texas.”

SB 6 would restrict bathroom and locker room use in public schools and government buildings to be based on “biological sex,” and it would override portions of local anti-discrimination ordinances meant to provide transgender Texans protections from discrimination in public bathrooms and other facilities.

But while the bill would require government entities to set bathroom policies for other public buildings, such entities that oversee publicly owned venues would have no say in the bathroom policies in place while sports leagues like the NCAA hold championship games at a stadium or during a performer’s concert at an arena.

[…]

Officials in North Carolina used a similar argument to defend their bathroom law, but it still cost the state millions in cancellations: The NBA moved an All-Star Game from Charlotte, costing the city $100 million in profits. The city estimated it lost another $30 million when the Atlantic Coast Conference pulled its football championship. Businesses scrapped expansions in the state, and performers canceled concerts. And the NCAA relocated seven championship games from North Carolina during the 2016-17 academic year.

In light of those cancellations, business and tourism officials in Texas say they are bracing for similar fallout, arguing that the stadium and convention center exemption probably won’t be enough to keep business from leaving the state.

“The really consistent message we get back is: Don’t count on it saving you,” Jessica Shortall, managing director of Texas Competes, said of feedback her group has received about the exemption from tourism officials in other states where similar legislation has been passed. Her nonprofit was recently set up to promote Texas businesses as LGBT friendly.

Associations holding conventions in Texas are already “expressing concern” over the legislation, tourism officials say. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has reached out to Patrick regarding the legislation, Patrick’s staff confirmed. And the Texas Association of Business, which represents hundreds of businesses and regularly sides with conservatives, is also opposed to the legislation, in part over concerns about it affecting the state’s ability to obtain business investments and recruit top talent to the state.

See here for some background. Jerry Jones is just another low level NFL adviser, so we don’t need to worry about what he has to say. Whatever you think about the NFL’s recent words, the fact remains that the NBA and the NCAA have shown with their actions and not just their words what they think of North Carolina’s bathroom bill, and if that state’s Republican-controlled legislature fails to repeal that law by the end of the month, they risk another demonstration of said opinion. There’s not enough lipstick in the entire Mary Kay collection for this porker. The only sensible thing to do is to leave SB6 in a back room somewhere, never to be seen again.

Interview with Jessica Shortall of Texas Competes

We are very familiar with the fight over Dan Patrick’s bathroom bill, which is encapsulated in SB6 but also exists in a larger sense in several other bills. A major component in this fight is the business community, which sees such legislation as a threat to its ability to attract and retain talent, especially younger talent, as well as a more immediate threat to the bottom line. We have all seen the North Carolina experience, even if Patrick refuses to accept it. One of the players in the fight is Texas Competes, which as they state on their website is “a partnership of business leaders committed to a Texas that is economically vibrant and welcoming of all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people”. They’re not a lobbying group, which I confess I was not clear about going into this interview, but an engagement and education group, aiming to win hearts and minds to their cause. I spoke to their Managing Director Jessica Shortall last week about Texas Competes and how it is working to stop bad legislation like SB6 and promote a Texas that is welcoming and inclusive. Here’s what we talked about:

One useful point to add is their comparison of SB6 and HB2, the North Carolina law that has caused so much trouble for that state. The particulars of SB6 may change as Patrick tries to get enough votes to pass it, but the fundamentals remain.

Business really doesn’t want a bathroom bill

Because this can’t be said enough.

Texas business leaders are gearing up for a fight with state lawmakers over Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s push to bar transgender Texans from bathrooms tied to their gender identity.

Business groups vehemently oppose the legislation, which they say would discriminate against the LGBT community, make the Lone Star State less attractive for businesses, drive away major events and tourists and hamper the state’s ability to retain young, top-tier workers who view LGBT workplace equality as a must-have.

If the bill became law, business leaders say, it would flush away up to $8.5 billion in economic activity while distracting lawmakers from more pressing issues, such as cutting and reforming taxes and bolstering the state’s economic incentive funds. The business leaders didn’t say if that would be an annual amount.

“Many are questioning why we’re even bringing it up when it’s not needed,” Chris Wallace, Texas Association of Business president, said in a phone interview. “Why are we spending a lot of taxpayers’ money on these types of issues when we have too many other core issues to be concentrating on?”

[…]

Almost 1,200 companies – including Microsoft, Texas Instruments, Whole Foods Market, SeaWorld San Antonio and Amazon – have signed the Texas Competes pledge, which states that long-term economic competitiveness and productivity in Texas are tied to creating a fair environment for the LGBT community. Texas Competes Managing Director Jessica Shortall said the bathroom bill could undercut that goal.

I refer you back to my earlier piece, which has most of what I think about this. While Patrick takes it as a personal affront that anyone thinks his bathroom bill could have any negative effects on Texas, the business lobby thinks his bill is a pointless waste of time. I continue to believe that it will be difficult to repair this relationship after this fight is over, and that the best thing Democrats can do is help sow and nurture those seeds of discord. In the meantime, as one looks at the long and growing list of Texas Competes supporters, I have to ask: What businesses, if any, are on Dan Patrick’s side on this? I’m guessing it’s a lot smaller, and represents much fewer employees and much less economic activity. Sure, that isn’t everything, but if you claim to be the stewards of Texas’ prosperity, it must mean something. So who is Dan Patrick representing here? Besides himself, of course.

Patrick plunges ahead with his potty bill

Brace yourselves.

After months of sparring over whether transgender Texans should be allowed to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Thursday officially set the legislative stage for the debate.

Following North Carolina’s lead, Texas Republicans announced Senate Bill 6, which would require transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on “biological sex” and would pre-empt local nondiscrimination ordinances that allow transgender Texans to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

“We know it’s going to be a tough fight,” Patrick said at a Capitol news conference announcing the bill. “But we know we’re on the right side of the issue. We’re on the right side of history. You can mark today as the day Texas is drawing a line in the sand and saying no.”

Patrick said his support for the legislation is based on privacy concerns, arguing that such policies allow men to enter women’s restrooms and locker rooms.

Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham, who will guide the bill through the upper chamber, said SB 6 would still allow for schools to accommodate transgender students on a case-by-case basis. But public entities that violate bathroom policies based on “biological sex” will be subject to a civil penalty imposed by the state attorney general.

It also appears to essentially exempt convention centers, stadiums and entertainment venues. The legislation would not apply if “if the location owned by a government entity is privately leased to an outside entity,” which is often the case for those sort of venues, Kolkorst said.

The exemption for “convention centers, stadiums and entertainment venues”, which was telegraphed a month ago, appears to be a sop to the business community, to try to buy their acquiescence. We’ll just have to see if it works. The direct attack on municipal anti-discrimination laws is not unexpected, but hasn’t been a focal point of the conversation before now. There will be much more to say about this as we go on, and believe me when I say I hope this all turns out to have been a tempest in a training potty, but for now I think the Lone Star Project has the best response:

“Any statement by Dan Patrick on the health and safety of Texas children should start with an apology for those he has let die on his watch.

“Since Patrick took office, nearly 800 Texas kids have died due to abuse or neglect while in the care of Child Protective Services. Patrick has served in five legislative sessions and has done nothing to help these Texas kids. Patrick’s top ten list of priorities specifically excludes fixing the failed Child Protective Services system.

“Dan Patrick’s only real priority is his political career. There’s no Texan he won’t exploit or neglect to advance himself.”

That’s what I’m talking about. I’ve expressed my concerns about the business community going weak if thrown a bone or two, so this response from the Texas Association of Business is encouraging.

Keep Texas Open for Business strongly opposed Senate Bill 6, calling out the just-filed “Texas Privacy Act,” as discriminatory, anti-business, and unnecessary legislation that is poised to have an immediate and detrimental impact on Texas’ economy. The bill is strikingly similar to North Carolina’s HB 2 law. Both pieces of legislation ban transgender people from using public school, university, and government building restrooms, and prohibit municipalities from passing transgender-inclusive public accommodations policies. The North Carolina law has cost the state nearly one billion dollars in lost economic revenue in just under 10 months.

“All Texans care deeply about safety and privacy, but Senate Bill 6 isn’t about either of those things,” said Chris Wallace, President of the Texas Association of Business (TAB), which leads the Keep Texas Open for Business coalition. “Senate Bill 6 is discriminatory and wholly unnecessary legislation that, if passed, could cost Texas as much as $8.5 billion in GDP and the loss of more than 185,000 jobs in the first year alone.”

“Our communities, our families and businesses across this state face a far more uncertain future if this kind of unnecessary regulation is enacted here. We cannot afford the real human consequences and staggering economic impact of slamming the door on the Texas’ history of openness, competitiveness, economic opportunity and innovation,” added Wallace.

Supporters of SB 6 claim its “unique to Texas”, but the legislation is fundamentally identical to the bathroom and municipal non-discrimination provisions in North Carolina’s HB 2. That law has resulted in companies like PayPal, Deutsche Bank and CoStar pulling jobs and planned investments from the state. Performers and sporting events also have fled North Carolina in the wake of HB 2 – with the NBA, NCAA, and ACC all pulling major championship events that were poised to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars to local economies.

“The so-called Texas Privacy Act won’t make restrooms any safer for men, women and children, and it will do far more harm to them than good. This legislation will needlessly jeopardize jobs, investment, innovation and tax revenue for our state, and it sullies our reputation as an open, inclusive and welcoming state. It is also wholly unenforceable and unsupported by any public safety evidence, and will create situations that invade the privacy of Texans from all walks of life.”

Wallace said that Keep Texas Open for Business and Texas Association of Business would welcome the opportunity to discuss meaningful ways the business community could work with state leaders to address serious, well-documented personal and public safety concerns like online predators, online privacy, and campus safety, while ensuring Texas does not enact discriminatory legislation that will spark statewide boycotts.

Now we need to convince these guys that they need to actually oppose the elections of legislators (and Lite Guvs) that support SB6, because as long as there are no consequences for these actions, there will be no changes in behavior. This is a good start, though.

Equality Texas is going to be at the forefront of this fight, so if you’re looking for a place to direct your activism efforts or dollars, go give them a hand – two immediate opportunities to Do Something are here and here. Texas Competes will also be in the mix on the business side. Patrick is way more out in front of this than either Joe Straus or Greg Abbott, and whatever happens I feel like we’re going to see this play out in next year’s Republican primaries. But let’s not get distracted – first this needs to be killed with fire. Do not sit idly by. Get involved and make your voice heard. Texas Monthly, the Chron, the Current, the Observer, the Austin Chronicle, Texas Leftist, and the DMN have more.

How much is that bathroom bill worth to you, Danny?

Is it worth $8.5 billion and 185,000 jobs?

The Texas economy stands to lose $8.5 billion and 185,000 jobs if anti-LGBT legislation passes in next year’s session, according to an analysis from the Texas Association of Business, the state’s chamber of commerce.

The TAB analysis is based on actual or projected losses in four states where lawmakers have passed or considered anti-LGBT legislation in recent years — Arizona, Indiana, Louisiana and North Carolina.

TAB determined that anti-LGBT legislation would cost Texas roughly 0.5 percent of its gross domestic product, mostly from decreased travel and tourism. The analysis cites hundreds of millions of dollars worth of potential losses related to events such as the Super Bowl, NCAA championships and Austin’s South By Southwest festival, in addition to reduced investments by major employers including Apple, Google, Marriott, IBM and PayPal.

“We’ve done our homework, and we feel very confident in the numbers,” TAB President Chris Wallace told the Observer. “There will be a significant economic impact in Texas if we continue down this path of legislation that is very much discriminatory. Why go there when we’re one of the top states in which to do business?”

Wallace, who provided a one-page executive summary of the analysis to the Observer, said TAB’s full report will be released in early December.

In September, TAB’s board overwhelmingly approved a resolution opposing anti-LGBT legislation. But the state chamber’s position appeared to have little impact on Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who subsequently reiterated his push for an anti-transgender bathroom bill, one of his top priorities.

A spokesman for Patrick didn’t respond to a request for comment on the TAB analysis.

Last week, the Quorum Report reported that Patrick has been pressuring business leaders to get on board with an anti-trans bathroom bill, allegedly telling them, “You’re either with us or against us.” Because they must work with Patrick on other issues affecting their bottom lines, some business leaders may be reluctant to defy him by publicly opposing an anti-trans bathroom bill.

See here and here for some background. I think we know that Dan Partick neither believes that passing an anti-LGBT bill will have any negative effect on Texas nor cares if he’s wrong. So this all comes down once again to the question I’ve been asking these business types every time one of these stories appears. Are you going to keep rolling over for Dan Patrick even though he does all these things that are harmful to your interests, or are you going to grow a backbone and stand up to him? Will you meekly support him after he pisses on your agenda because you fear him, or will you work to defeat him and elect someone who actually does care about the things you say you care about, even at the risk of making him mad at you? It’s totally your choice.

Business owners tell Dan Patrick to back off on bathrooms

More like this, please.

Saying Texas Republican leaders are threatening jobs and the economy, more than 200 small-business owners issued an open letter Tuesday urging legislators to abandon plans for a state law targeting transgender bathrooms.

The letter described “a growing sense of dread” that Texas will follow the path set by North Carolina, where a backlash to a similar law enacted in March will cost its economy several hundred million dollars in canceled sporting events, conventions, concerts and corporate investments.

“That’s why we oppose any Texas legislation — broad or narrow — that would legalize discrimination against any group,” the letter said. “That kind of legislation doesn’t just go against our values to be welcoming to everyone, it jeopardizes the businesses we’ve worked so hard to create, and it threatens the jobs and livelihoods of everyday Texans.”

Unveiled in San Antonio, home to the Final Four of the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the letter was a direct response to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s calls for legislation that he has dubbed the Women’s Privacy Act.

[…]

Tuesday’s letter not only sets the stage for an animated battle when the 2017 legislative session convenes in January, it underscored deepening divisions between social conservatives and many in the business community — a typically reliable GOP ally — on issues that include gay marriage and allowing transgender Texans to use bathrooms that conform to their gender identity, not the gender on their birth certificate.

The legislative priorities for the Texas Association of Business, adopted last month by its board of directors, calls for opposition to religious freedom bills that are “discriminatory” and would hurt the economy. The powerful business lobbying group also opposed similar bills in the 2015 legislative session.

Many business owners who signed Tuesday’s open letter — which was sponsored by Equality Texas, a gay- and transgender-rights group — said they rely on tourism or the ability to serve expanding corporations.

“Texas has always been a place of fierce independence and a great big pioneering spirit,” said David Wyatt with Wyatt Brand, a business-support company in Austin that endorsed the letter. “Companies, voters and political donors won’t stand for legislators dictating government overreach into individual liberties.”

Other Austin businesses listed on the letter include GSD&M advertising, Home Slice Pizza, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and Bunkhouse, which manages Hotel San José, Austin Motel and Hotel Saint Cecilia, as well as hotels in San Antonio and Marfa.

Just remember, Dan Patrick is Donald Trump’s biggest fanboy in Texas, so you know how much he respects the ladies. This all comes down to the same question I asked before, when the normally Republican-aligned Texas Association of Business came out against any anti-LGBT legislation that Patrick and his buddies might want to peddle: How much damage does Dan Patrick have to do to Texas’ business interests before they decide that he’s not worth it to them? Putting it another way, at what point do the Republican members of these groups quit trying to reason with the radicals and work instead to defeat them? The definition of political insanity is to continue voting for people who oppose your interests in the hope that maybe this time they’ll listen to you. What’s it gonna be, fellas? The Rivard Report, the Chron, and the Current have more.

How anti-business does Dan Patrick have to be for businesses to oppose him?

I remain skeptical that there is such a threshold, but if one does exist, the next legislative session will test it.

RedEquality

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 theObserver at the GOP state convention in May.

As you know, I feel the same way about stuff like this as I do the TAB’s periodic efforts to rein in the Texas GOP’s worst instincts on immigration: None of it matters because in the end they’ll be right there supporting these same politicians who opposed their interests for re-election. Business interests point to North Carolina with alarm, while Republicans like Patrick swear that it’s the businesses themselves that are the problem. If the Republicans push an HB2-like bill, and it has the entirely predictable consequences that everyone says it will have, will that be enough? How much damage does Dan Patrick have to do to Texas’ business interests before they decide that he’s not worth it to them? I don’t know, and I’m not sure that they do, either. Maybe they’ll succeed in derailing this act of felo de se and we won’t have to confront the question. Maybe Patrick won’t have an opponent in 2018 and it won’t matter anyway. But as long as he’s there, and as long as these are his stated priorities, the question will not go away.

NCAA lays down a marker on anti-LGBT legislation

Hope the Lege is paying attention, because they can’t say they haven’t been warned.

RedEquality

The NBA and NCAA may have just dealt a preemptive, one-two knockout punch to anti-LGBT bills in the upcoming Texas Legislature, which convenes in January.

First, the NBA announced plans to move the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte over North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which restricts restroom access for transgender people and prohibits cities from enforcing LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances.

Then, the NCAA responded to HB 2 by saying it will quiz prospective championship host cities about whether they protect LGBT people against discrimination. Texas cities hosted three of the last six men’s basketball Final Four tournaments, and the event, with an estimated economic impact of $75 million, is slated for San Antonio in 2018.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and other GOP state lawmakers have indicatedthey plan to push legislation similar to HB 2 in next year’s session. However, Rice University political scientist Mark Jones told the Observer that even if such a bill were to clear the Patrick-led Senate, he believes it would die at the hands of moderate Republican House speaker Joe Straus.

“In the House, it’s difficult to see any HB 2-type legislation making it out of committee,” Jones said. “The speaker isn’t going to let something through that would have a negative impact on Texas businesses and could result in the cancellation of sporting events.”

A spokesman for Straus, who represents San Antonio, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. A spokesman for Patrick, who previously railed against“threats” of backlash from corporations and sporting events over anti-LGBT legislation such as HB 2, didn’t respond to multiple phone calls and emails.

In defense of anti-LGBT legislation, Patrick has pointed out the men’s Final Four was held in Houston in April despite voters’ decision to repeal the city’s Equal Rights Ordinance last November. But the NCAA Board of Governors didn’t adopt new diversity guidelines for host cities until after the 2016 Final Four, and Jones drew a distinction between voters repealing a nondiscrimination ordinance and legislators passing an anti-LGBT bill.

[…]

Jessica Shortall, managing director for Texas Competes, said the announcements from the NBA and NCAA are part of a growing pattern in which the corporate sector not only sees LGBT discrimination as incompatible with its values, but is increasingly willing to stand up against LGBT discrimination.

“This trend isn’t going away, and it will continue to have deep effects on municipal and state economies,” she said. “The sports community is sending strong and unified signals on this topic, and that’s something that has to have the attention of economic development professionals who work to secure lucrative bookings, as well as of everyday citizens who care about economic health and jobs in their communities.”

The Current covers the local angle.

Here in San Antonio, City Council approved adding gender identity and sexual orientation to its non-discrimination ordinance three years ago, and has since hired a diversity and inclusion officer and built a dedicated website that’s supposed to be a one-stop shop for non-discrimination complaints. Part of the NCAA’s new bidding policy for championships includes a non-discrimination ordinance requirement. However, the NCAA announced in 2014 that San Antonio will host the NCAA Final Four in 2018 — two years before the association’s policy change.

That doesn’t mean that San Antonio won’t be required to prove to the NCAA that its policies don’t discriminate and provide “an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event.” Last week, the NCAA announced it was sending questionnaires to all cities interested in hosting future NCAA championships but it’s also sending one to San Antonio, along with other currently awarded host sites, as first reported by the San Antonio Business Journal.

Mayor Ivy Taylor’s office didn’t respond to our request for comment on whether the mayor, who voted against the non-discrimination ordinance in 2013, thinks the city’s rule will pass that bar. However, it likely will. In basic terms, the NCAA wants to know whether a community even has a non-discrimination ordinance, whether it regulates bathrooms or locker rooms, and whether it has provisions that allow for the refusal of accommodations or services to any person.

Where it’s going to get hairy for San Antonio is that the questionnaire also wants to know whether state law clashes with the NCAA’s new criteria.

The NBA’s message to North Carolina was pretty clear. Like a child who’s been denied candy as an afternoon snack, Dan Patrick can pout and stamp his feet all he wants, but these are the rules of engagement. If Patrick and his brethren in zealotry want to propose legislation that would limit the ability of private companies to treat their employees with equality – because nothing says “party of small government” and “promoting a healthy climate for business” like that would – then he should go right ahead. This is all in character for Dan Patrick, who doesn’t handle entities that disagree with him well. Whether he likes it or not, he knows what the consequences for his behavior will be. What he does from here is entirely up to him. The Press has more.

What will the business lobby do to prevent a North Carolina anti-equality law being passed in Texas?

That’s the question that needs to be asked.

RedEquality

Texas business leaders and LGBT advocates hope economic backlash over an anti-LGBT bill in North Carolina will deter lawmakers from taking up similar legislation next year in Austin.

More than 100 CEOs and business leaders, including Apple’s Tim Cook and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, sent a letter this week to North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory calling on the General Assembly to repeal House Bill 2, which he signed last week.

The bill prohibits cities from enforcing LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances, and bars transgender people from using restrooms and other facilities according to their gender identity.

Similar measures were introduced in Texas last year, but died without hearings.

“We certainly don’t want Texas to appear to be unwelcoming for future talent, and that’s what I think we’ll get if something like North Carolina’s bill is taken up by our Legislature,” said Chris Wallace, president of the Texas Association of Business (TAB), the state’s chamber of commerce.

Last year, TAB came out against a sweeping anti-LGBT “religious freedom” bill, but didn’t take a position on proposals to ban local nondiscrimination ordinances or restrict restroom access for trans people. However, Wallace said TAB’s board may consider doing so at a September meeting where it will set its legislative agenda for 2017.

“Talent availability is the number one issue among businesses today in Texas,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we have future employees, and we don’t need any issues like this getting in our way.”

[…]

After more than 20 anti-LGBT bills were defeated in Texas last year, socially conservative groups criticized the business community for opposing them. And last week, Texas Pastor Council Executive Director Dave Welch responded to corporate backlash in North Carolina by calling the TAB opposition to anti-LGBT bills “huffing and puffing,” and described boycotts as “economic terrorism.”

“We stand with the pastors and legislators in North Carolina and our commitment is that we will defend what is right, decent, honorable and good for all citizens in Texas, including necessary legislation to defend our liberty and our families,,” Welch wrote in an email to the council’s members.

It would be nice to think that the backlash in North Carolina will be swift and severe enough to dissuade most legislators from even thinking about following down that path, but it’s clear that the zealots don’t care about any of that. What I hope is clear from that is that the business community comes to realize that being on the same side as those guys – in particular, supporting the same legislative candidates as those guys – will not work out well for them. Which brings me to the question of what are they going to do about that? To be fair, there’s not that much that can be done this year. Primaries are over, there are only a handful of runoffs to be decided, and as we know there aren’t that many competitive districts in November. That’s unfortunate, because the one message that is always received clearly is losing an election. Democrats should still make this an issue in their races, if only to offer clarity. If the business lobby doesn’t then deliver a few horse’s heads a the start of the next legislative session, then as with the immigration issue I don’t see why we should take their oft-expressed concerns seriously. They can do something about this if they want to. If they don’t, that tells you what you need to know.

The next steps for equality advocates

Marriage equality will be a huge step, but there are many more steps to be taken.

RedEquality

The newly launched Texas Wins campaign—a multiyear, multimillion-dollar effort—aims to increase the number of LGBT Texans protected by local nondiscrimination ordinances.

“We want to take the momentum for LGBT equality coming out of the session, build on it, and one way to do so is through these local ordinances, to where in a session down the road we look at a statewide bill,” Texas Wins spokesman Kevin Nix said. “We’ve really turned a page here in the state, and the playing field is sort of wide open now to make some real progress. … I think sometimes politicians can overplay their hands, and they probably did.”

Nix said one of the campaign’s biggest challenges will be educating people that anti-LGBT discrimination is perfectly legal in Texas outside cities that have banned it—Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, Plano and San Antonio—which account for less than a third of the state’s population.

“So many people don’t even realize it’s legal to fire or evict gay and transgender people,” he said. “A lot of folks think it’s protected in law, and it’s not. That problem would persist no matter what the marriage decision is from the Supreme Court.”

[…]

One of the keys to passing nondiscrimination ordinances will be convincing elected officials they provide a competitive advantage for cities economically. Texas Competes, a sister organization of Texas Wins, has gathered signatures from more than 200 employers, including 16 from the Fortune 500, in support of LGBT inclusion. Texas Wins is funded by a combination of individual and institutional donors—including the ACLU of Texas, Equality Texas, the Texas Freedom Network and the Human Rights Campaign—while Texas Competes is funded solely by Equality Texas.

Jessica Shortall, managing director of Texas Competes, said Texas was the first state in which the business community proactively spoke out en masse against anti-LGBT legislation before it reached the governor’s desk—protecting the state’s brand rather than having to repair it.

However, Shortall said she fears a loss of momentum in coming months due to a collective sigh of relief after the session, combined with a likely win on same-sex marriage at the high court.

“There could be kind of a drop the mic, spike the football thing,” Shortall said. “As we see in movement after movement, when you get a really big win, sometimes the wind goes out of the sails.”

Shortall is also looking ahead to the 2017 session, when she expects more anti-LGBT, religious freedom legislation similar to a bill that passed in Indiana in March.

Bringing non-discrimination ordinances to places that don’t currently have them, litigating when needed, and beating back the latest version of anti-equality measures and tactics – there will still be plenty to do. And even a sweeping ruling in favor of marriage equality from SCOTUS isn’t going to make that debate go away. Equality opponents may begin to reject the idea of civil marriage, and may push to give special status to religious marriage in response. Republican candidates, from the Presidential level on down, are likely at least in the short term to come under extra pressure to do something stupid in defiance of SCOTUS. And as anti-gay animus finally begins to fade a little into the background, at least in polite society, anti-transgender animus appears to be on the rise. We can’t let the wind go out of the sails. If we’re not moving forward, we’re moving backward.

Two anti-gay bills advance

Look out.

RedEquality

Gay rights advocates began sounding the alarm Wednesday after two anti-LGBT bills cleared House committees and another received a favorable hearing.

Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, said if LGBT groups and their corporate allies don’t work quickly to generate the type of backlash seen over a religious freedom bill in Indiana last month, it could soon be too late.

Miller made the statement on a day when separate House panels advanced bills that would bar county clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses and allow state-funded adoption agencies to turn away gay couples based on religious beliefs. The two bills, which breached a dam that had kept a record number of anti-LGBT measures at bay for the first 100 days of the session, now head to the Calendars Committee.

“My fear is that if the Indiana-style outrage doesn’t happen now, before these bills make it to the floor of the House, it will be too late, because the membership of the House will pass these bills, and then the Senate will fly them through, and Gov. [Greg] Abbott will have no choice but to sign them in his mind,” Miller said.

Miller and others said with the U.S. Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments on same-sex marriage Tuesday, moderate Republicans in the Legislature are feeling the heat from social conservatives.

“I feel like the Republican base is desperately afraid of the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage this summer,” Miller said. “I think there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on the leadership in the House to pass anti-LGBT legislation. I think some of Speaker [Joe] Straus’ lieutenants are more likely to cave in to that pressure than others.”

[…]

The House Committee on State Affairs voted 7-3 along party lines to advance House Bill 4105, which would prohibit state or local funds from being used to license or recognize same-sex marriages.

Among those voting in favor of the bill was Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), a moderate who chairs the committee and has come out in support of one pro-LGBT bill.

“For me, I believe in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, so that’s why I voted for it,” Cook said.

All due respect, and I do respect Rep. Cook for his support of the birth certificate bill, but he’s not a moderate. As I noted before, he received an F on the 2013 Equality Texas report card. His support of Rep. Anchia’s bill is great and appreciated, but it doesn’t change who he is.

The Texas Association of Business, the state’s powerful chamber of commerce, has come out against two proposed religious freedom amendments that critics say would enshrine a “license to discriminate” against LGBT people in the Texas Constitution. But the TAB has remained silent on the bills that cleared committee Wednesday.

“We have not taken a position and doubtful (with timing of the session) that we will be able to,” TAB President Chris Wallace said in an email. “We will continue to monitor the business-related implications.”

Late Wednesday, the House Committee on Juvenile Justice and Family Affairs voted 6-1 to advance House Bill 3864, by Rep. Scott Sanford (R-McKinney), which would allow state-funded child welfare providers to discriminate based on sincerely held religious beliefs.

Meanwhile, dozens of pastors gave hours of testimony in support of House Bill 3567, also by Sanford, which he said is designed to prevent clergy from being forced to perform same-sex marriages. Critics of HB 3567 say it’s so broadly written that it could allow any religiously affiliated organization—from hospitals to universities and homeless shelters—to discriminate against LGBT people.

None of this is good, so now would be an excellent time to call your State Rep and ask him or her to vote against these bills. It would also be nice if the TAB and its other corporate allies would remember that not only are these bills bad for business, they will inevitably lead to expensive litigation (that the state will lose) because they’re clearly unconstitutional. The cheaper and safer route is to keep them bottled up in the House.

It’s hard to overstate just how out of step with public opinion all of this is. I can only conclude that the GOP is more in thrall to its zealot wing than it is to the business lobby. Maybe this will finally help cause a bit of a schism. As far as those “Christians” that were there to lobby for these bills, they don’t represent all people of faith. Not by a longshot. And finally, if Indiana and Arkansas weren’t object lessons enough for Republicans, just keep an eye on Louisiana, where Bobby Jindal has decided that the best strategy is to double down. Imitating Arkansas is bad enough – do we have to do what Louisiana does, too? The Trib has more.

Our corporate allies

Whatever else you may think, they represent our best chance to beat back anti-LGBT legislation this session.

With more than 20 anti-LGBT bills pending in the Texas Legislature, a coalition of major employers in the state — including Dell, Samsung and Southwest Airlines — is making the business case for fair treatment of gay, bisexual and transgender people.

More than 50 businesses have joined the coalition, called Texas Competes, by signing a pledge saying LGBT inclusion is essential to maintaining the Texas brand, attracting top talent and new companies to the state, and supporting a healthy tourism industry.

The full list of businesses, which includes 13 from the Fortune 500, will be unveiled Tuesday at a press conference in Austin featuring representatives from the Texas Association of Business, South By Southwest and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Texas Competes spokesman James Shackelford said the coalition won’t take positions on specific legislation and that the effort has been in the works for months, long before anti-LGBT religious freedom laws in Indiana and Arkansas sparked historic backlash from the corporate sector.

“But obviously the timing, when it’s launching and when we’re going public with it, is important,” Shackelford told the Observer.

As Texas Competes says in its About page, they’re not a grassroots or lobbying organization, and they won’t endorse specific bills. They’re here to make a straight-up economic case for embracing equality. Maybe that’s not your preferred line of reasoning, but if it keeps a few legislators from voting Yes on some of those hateful bills, it’s all for the good. As I said before regarding the Texas Association of Business, which is lobbying against bad anti-LGBT bills, we can take advantage of this alignment while still keeping our eyes on the ball. We’d be crazy not to gather all the allies we can get for this.