In response to legislation proposed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick last week, 200 small Texas businesses banded together and released an open letter Tuesday pushing for law makers to oppose the measure that they say discriminates against the LGBTQIA community and is “an attack on small business.”
Equality Texas, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equal rights group, is at the helm of the bill’s opposition and is inviting more small businesses to join the effort by signing the letter which can be found on the organization’s website here.
“We want to continue to provide great jobs and great experiences for our employees and our customers. That’s why we oppose any Texas legislation – broad or narrow – that would legalize discrimination against any group,” the letter states. “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.”
The statement also draws comparisons between the Women’s Privacy Act – Patrick’s bill which would limit transgender people’s ability to use the bathroom that matches their personal gender identity – and the HB2 law, which was enacted in North Carolina in March.
The HB2 law has resulted in millions of dollars in economic losses in the state because several companies who opposed it canceled a number of major sporting and entertainment events.
Many worry that the economy in San Antonio, Texas’ No. 1 tourism destination and the host of the $75 million 2018 NCAA Final Four tournament, could face a similar fate if Patrick’s bill passes.
The Women’s Privacy Act is not only “discriminatory,” several speakers said Tuesday at a press conference outside Hotel Havana, but also would be severely damaging to the state and local economy – small business owners in particular.
“Any legislation that puts hatred into our community … will affect our tourism,” said Anel Flores, owner of A&N Realty. “People will not want to come here, people will not want to contribute to our businesses.”
Small business owners from 36 cities across Texas have signed the Equality Texas letter, and participating San Antonio businesses include Nectar Wine Bar and Ale House, ABH Hospitality Management, The Friendly Spot, among others in a various industries.
Rebel Mariposa, owner of La Botánica, one of the businesses that signed onto the list, said that by 2030 Millennials will make up 75% of the United States workforce, and any discriminative legislation will deter that population from living and working in the state.
“Millennials don’t like discrimination,” she said, and if legislators let the Women’s Privacy Act pass, “you will be cutting off a pipeline of talent not just here in Texas and San Antonio but the surrounding areas as well.”
Patrick said that the transgender bathroom bill is a priority for him in the coming 2017 Legislative session. He defended it in a speech he gave last week at a Dallas Regional Chamber gathering.
“Transgender people have obviously been going into the ladies’ room for a long time, and there hasn’t been an issue that I know of,” he said. “But if laws are passed by cities and counties or school districts to allow men to go into a bathroom because of the way they feel, we will not be able to stop sexual predators from taking advantage of that law, like sexual predators take advantage of the internet.”
Chuck Smith, Equality Texas CEO, said that the bill is “not about protecting women’s privacy at all” and is instead about discrimination against transgender people for no valid reason.
“This legislation is not necessary,” he said. “There’s not a problem and this legislation serves no real purpose.”
Smith said that Equality Texas will continue to promote its statement and encourage more small businesses to join the effort in hopes of sparking more widespread opposition to Patrick’s proposed legislation.
“We hope to grow (the list) even larger,” Smith said, “and continue to build the army of small businesses and business owners that want to keep Texas open for business for everyone.”