Conservative Group: Anti-LGBTQ Bills Could Cost Texas $8.5 Billion

Strange bedfellows make economic case against bigoted bills

Joining the Texas Association of Business, Austin Reps. Celia Israel (left) and Donna Howard promise to fight against discriminatory legislation come January.
Joining the Texas Association of Business, Austin Reps. Celia Israel (left) and Donna Howard promise to fight against discriminatory legislation come January. (Photo by Mary Tuma)

It’s hard to imagine Republican legislators diverging with the Texas Association of Business, a powerful conservative lobby group, but when it comes to discriminatory bills, the state’s chamber of commerce is strongly cautioning against passing any legislation that would hurt LGBTQ Texans.

During a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, Dec. 6, the unlikely allies unveiled a study showing the state could be in jeopardy of losing at least $8.5 billion in GDP and 185,000 jobs if they passed bills that discriminate against gay and transgender residents. The study, conducted by St. Edward’s University, also found anti-LGBTQ bills would drastically impact Texas’ convention and tourism industry, which infuses $69 billion into the economy. Over four years, Austin stands to lose $38 million from SXSW festival and $108 million at the Formula 1 race track, TAB projects. “Discriminatory legislation is bad for business,” said Chris Wallace, TAB president. “Our economic study points to the dire and far-reaching impact of discriminatory legislation on Texas businesses, our communities, families, jobs and the larger state economy.” Wallace said the group is building a coalition of businesses including Apple, IBM, and Intel, to make sure legislators understand the economic threat.

Duff Stewart of Austin-based ad firm GSD&M; Hugh Forrest, director of SXSW Interactive Festival; and Caroline Joiner of TechNet stood alongside TAB members to highlight how impending anti-LGBTQ bills would impede recruitment, inclusion, retaining talented employees, and maintaining competition at their companies. “Creativity is part of the identity of Austin and we rely on a diverse pool of talent to maintain that creativity. Should Texas be perceived as a hostile work environment it would hinder our ability to attract and retain the kind of talent that make up our unique city,” said Stewart.

Next year’s legislative session is guaranteed to feature a heated battle over LGBTQ rights, and only time will tell if the strictly economic argument – including the fact that Texas businesses make up 60% of the tax base – will sway the minds of conservative legislators. Making it one of his Top 10 priorities, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has promised to introduce a North Carolina-style ‘bathroom bill’ that would ban transgender residents from using the restroom that aligns with their gender identity. And anti-LGBTQ bills, like Sen. Bob Hall’s SB 92, have already started trickling in. On the House side, moderate Republican Rep. Joe Straus has publicly downgraded the transgender restroom issue as just not that important. “This isn’t the most urgent concern of mine,” said Straus last month. “If it creates a situation like North Carolina went through, my enthusiasm would not be high for that.” North Carolina has lost out on $630 million and several sporting and entertainment opportunities since March, not to mention millions in lost wages. Texas businesses, including dozens from Austin, recently wrote an open letter to the Lege strongly warning them to lay off passing similar bills, the Chronicle previously reported.

Joining TAB, Austin Reps. Donna Howard and Celia Israel, also vowed to fight against discriminatory legislation when session begins and redirect focus to basics like education, healthcare, and infrastructure come January. “In all my years of activism and public service, I’ve never seen the business community step up like this,” said Israel, a small business owner and member of the LGBTQ community. “Transgender and LGBT Texans should not be a wedge issue. We should be treated with respect and dignity, and our transgender children do not need to be bullied.”

Appealing to bottom-line minded conservative legislators, Israel concluded practically: “I would say to our statewide leaders if the moral argument doesn’t touch you, I hope the business community, with their facts and data will resonate."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More LGBTQ rights
National Law Group Ditches Texas Over Lege’s Anti-LGBTQ Hate
National Law Group Ditches Texas Over Lege’s Anti-LGBTQ Hate
American Assoc. of Law Libraries bans TX because of discrimination

Mary Tuma, July 14, 2017

After Filing Bill Forcing Schools to Out LGBTQ Kids, Legislator Bullies Media
Burton's Anti-Trans Bill
Sen. Konni Burton's SB 242 isn't being misreported; it's anti-trans

Mary Tuma, Nov. 21, 2016

More by Mary Tuma
City Council Redirects APD Funds to Abortion Support Access
City Council Redirects APD Funds to Abortion Support Access
$250K to flow toward abortion support services

Aug. 14, 2020

SCOTUS Protects Abortion Rights, Upholds Texas Precedent
SCOTUS Protects Abortion Rights, Upholds Texas Precedent
Roberts concurs with majority to strike down Louisiana measure

June 29, 2020


LGBTQ rights, Texas Association of Business, Chris Wallace, Duff Stewart, Hugh Forrest, Caroline Joiner, Bob Hall, Joe Straus, Dan Patrick, Donna Howard, Celia Israel

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle