The Austin Chronicle

State LGBTQ Chambers Form First-of-Its-Kind Alliance

The new Texas LGBT Chambers of Commerce will represent Austin, Greater Houston, North Texas, and San Antonio

By Beth Sullivan, February 15, 2019, News

The LGBTQ chambers of commerce representing Texas' four major metro areas have formed a statewide coalition to advocate for business issues important to Texas' LGBTQ community. The first of its kind in the nation, the Texas LGBT Chambers of Commerce – comprising the Austin, Greater Houston, North Texas, and San Antonio chambers – speaks for more than 1,000 LGBTQ-owned and -allied businesses, Chase Kincannon, chair of the Austin chamber, told the Chronicle. On Feb. 20, the coalition will hold its first ever Advocacy Day at the Texas Capitol to discuss its agenda with lawmakers.

According to Kincannon and Tony Vedda, CEO and president of the North Texas chamber, the Texas LGBT Chambers of Commerce has not taken any positions on specific bills. But Vedda said the group is tracking two religious exemption bills, Senate Bills 85 and 444, which, if passed, would let businesses refuse service based on their "sincerely held religious belief." Kincan­non added the coalition will be watching for any pre-emption bills – bills that void or overrule any local laws that might be passed by city governments – that could discriminate toward the LGBTQ community.

But he said the coalition is "not just there to be against anti-LGBT legislation," noting that it's an "economic organization," after all. Their agenda also supports maintaining local control of property tax and appraisal decisions, as well as developing transportation corridors such as commuter rail. He noted the collective has received "really positive feedback" from legislators who have typically expressed conservative views on LGBTQ issues but who understand "the economic impact of the business we represent. They're realizing that what's good for LGBT rights and LGBT business is good for business. Period."

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