Lawmakers, Texas Association of Business, civil liberties groups object to bills discriminating against LGBT Texans

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(Austin, TX) // Today, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) joined Representative Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) and Bill Hammond, CEO of the Texas Association of Business, to discuss their mounting concerns over bills that protect and even promote discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Texans. Representatives from Equality Texas, the Texas Freedom Network, and the ACLU of Texas also expressed legal and civil liberties concerns. Photos from the press conference are available for your use here, and video of the press conference can be viewed here.

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Similar bills in Indiana and Arkansas have sparked intense criticism from across the country. Major companies and national organizations subsequently announced that they would reconsider plans to move to, expand in, or hold conferences and other events in those states.

“These bills allow people to be fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, denied public services the rest of us take for granted, and even turned into criminals simply because of who they are and whom they love,” said Sen. Ellis. “The Texas I love is better than that. This debate isn’t about businesses not serving someone they might object to, as that minimizes the seriousness of what’s at stake here.”

Rep. Anchia warned that the proposed bills would undermine or even sweep away nondiscrimination ordinances put in place in major cities across the state – including his hometown of Dallas.

“By undoing these protections, the Legislature would be sending a message that local control isn’t as important as some of my colleagues have long said that it is,” Rep. Anchia said. “They would be saying to the rest of the country that discrimination against our neighbors, our friends, our family members is more important. My own city and many others across the state have decided against that kind of discrimination, and the Legislature shouldn’t undermine our cities’ economic wellbeing or our citizens’ civil liberties.”

The message to the rest of the country particularly concerns business leaders, according to Bill Hammond, CEO of the Texas Association of Business (TAB). TAB has not taken positions on all of the bills but does oppose the proposed constitutional amendments, SJR 10 and HJR 125. The two amendments are similar to “religious refusal” bills in Indiana and Arkansas that prompted major companies and organizations to withdraw plans to expand or hold major events in those states.

“Either of these two amendments would bring the same backlash to Texas,” Hammond said. “They also would lead to potentially enormous litigation costs, hurt our efforts to attract businesses and tourism dollars that keep out economy growing, and make it harder for employers to enforce laws and company policies barring discrimination against their workers and customers. Texas is a magnet for new businesses, talent and visitors. This legislation would immediately threaten our solid brand.”

A total of 20 bills discriminating against LGBT Texans have been filed this session in the Texas Legislature. The Texas Freedom Network has an overview of the bills here: www.tfn.org/discriminationbills

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