Women Business Leaders, Moms, Sexual Assault Advocates and Religious Leaders Voice Strong Opposition to So-Called Bathroom Bills and Discriminatory Legislation

Women Business Leaders, Moms, Sexual Assault Advocates and Religious Leaders Voice Strong Opposition to So-Called Bathroom Bills and Discriminatory Legislation

Such Legislation is Destructive, Risky and a Solution in Search of a Problem

Austin, Texas (April 18, 2017)—Women business leaders, moms, sexual assault experts and religious leaders gathered today at the Texas Capitol to speak out against SB 6 – the so-called “bathroom bill” – and the committee substitute for HB 2899, a proposed alternative to SB 6 and other anti-business, discriminatory bills.

Representatives from a coalition of members of Texas Welcomes All and Keep Texas Open for Business, women business executives from large corporations and small businesses, moms, teachers, clergy and sexual assault experts and other leaders are part of the coalition including:  Silicon Labs, the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Tenet Health Care, IBM, HP, Intel, Celanese, TechNet, RetailMeNot, VisitDallas, San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau, Facebook, Amazon, Dow, Dell, Capital One, Silicon Labs, Salesforce, AMD, SXSW, C3, Alamo Drafthouse and GSD&M and others sent a unified message: SB 6 and CSHB 2899 and other discriminatory bills will hurt Texas’ economy and businesses and does nothing to protect women or children.

“We are mothers. We are small business owners and business executives. We are teachers. We are active in our communities, in local government and in our schools. We are conservatives, liberals and independents.  Our common thread is that we are all Texans, and we are all women.  We represent the rich diversity of our state, and we also stand united in our opposition to discriminatory bills. We ask you, our Texas state leaders, to reject this discriminatory and unnecessary legislation, said Joanna Day, a mother of three from Dripping Springs.

“I’m a conservative and a proud Texan. I am especially proud of our state’s reputation for being a warm and welcoming place to live. I deal with safety issues for my company every day so I understand the desire to have laws that keep everyone in our state safe. Fortunately, numerous law enforcement officials have said we already have the laws in place needed to handle anyone who intends to harm another person in a bathroom. We don’t need to give our state a reputation for being a place that has laws that discriminate against people. And I personally don’t need bathroom bills to make me feel safe in a public restroom. As a lifelong Republican and as a Texas business leader, I ask the Texas Legislature to make the common-sense choice for our state–oppose discriminatory legislation that takes us backwards,” said Sally Larrabee, Safety Director of Process Control Outlet of Baytown, Texas.

“My generation – regardless of political affiliation – has had it with discrimination. And women of my generation reject discrimination done in our names.  Texas women, and girls like my two beautiful nieces, need a lot of things. We need good, well-funded schools. We need safe communities. We need a robust economy. What we do not need is to be used as props to promote discrimination for political gain. The people who are promoting discriminatory bills are backed by radical groups that have literally called for driving LGBT people out of the state of Texas,” said Sarah Meredith, a millennial, working at Umbel, a tech start-up in Austin.

Julie Chase, VP and Chief Marketing Officer of the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau, noted that visitors to Austin create an economic impact of $7 billion per year, and that “discriminatory laws will have a cooling effect on tourism across Texas.”

Legislation attempting to legalize discrimination is taking many forms this year in Texas where there are more than 20 discriminatory anti-LGBT bills filed this session.  Keep Texas Open for Business, Texas Welcomes All, and the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault oppose all discriminatory legislation.

“Our people are our business; they fuel the innovation and creativity that in turn fuels our success,” said Marianne Malina, president of GSD&M. “We are in a fight for top talent, and discriminatory legislation not only goes against GSD&M’s values but also our demand for a talented and diverse workforce. Texas can’t afford to lose its competitive advantage should non-discrimination protections be threatened. We must band together for a stronger community, stronger businesses, and most importantly, for equality.”

Any discriminatory legislation would make discrimination not only possible but legal here in Texas.  These bills do not address any evidence-based public safety concerns. The legislation would ensure that Texas faces economic risks in tourism, investment, and the war for talent.  We know the threat of sexual assault is real and pervasive, but we also know that discriminatory bills do nothing to keep anyone safe.

“For the past 35 years, TAASA has been the voice for sexual assault survivors in Texas. I wish I was here today to speak about one of the solid, victim-centered bills currently proposed in the legislature. Unfortunately, I’m here to speak out on SB6 and CSHB 2899 which markets itself as safety and privacy legislation for women but misses the mark by miles.  Let me be clear, SB6 and the new House version of the HB 2899 do nothing to prevent sexual assault. I am offended that the issue of sexual assault has been co-opted to promote these bills. I have been doing this work for almost 40 years in 2 states and have never encountered or even heard of one solitary woman or child who was victimized in a public restroom or locker room by a man posing as a woman.  If I believed this bill was merely an innocuous but harmless bill I wouldn’t bother to speak out, but unfortunately, that is not the case. SB 6 and bills like them are why nearly every sexual assault and domestic violence agency in the United States strongly opposes these,” said Annette Burrhus-Clay, Executive Director of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

“Workers with talent, passion and education in STEM fields are the lifeblood of our success. If the Texas Legislature passes discriminatory legislation that would legalize discrimination against LGBT people, the impact on the Texas technology and business communities will be both immediate and far-reaching,” said Diane Crawford, Global Commercial Operations Director for Irving-based Celanese Corporation.

“Discriminatory legislation hurts our reputation as a state that values economic progress, innovation and cultural diversity,” said Silicon Labs Director of Corporate Marketing Deirdre Walsh. “Texas already competes against states like California and New York for top talent.  Discriminatory bills hurt our ability to attract and keep employees, especially millennials, who value inclusion and diversity.  Instead, our legislature should focus on improving our education system and growing our number of skilled workers, two areas that fuel our state’s economy and help solve our tech labor shortage.”

“We are committed to providing world-class care and exceptional patient experiences. In order to do that, we need to be able to compete for world-class talent. In the healthcare field, competition for talent is fierce, so the reputation of Texas as a warm and welcoming place to live is a crucial factor in our competitiveness,” said Felicia Miller, Texas Region Chief Human Resources Officer for Tenet Healthcare, a Fortune 500 company based in Dallas that operates healthcare facilities all over the United States, including 22 hospitals in Texas. 

“Our home and our heart has been here in Texas for 20 years now,” said Karrie League, who founded Alamo Drafthouse with her husband in 1997. “Lawmakers should understand that if celebrities and musicians scale back their participation in festivals like SXSW and ACL Music Festival, it will send an immediate ripple effect through the small business community here. It will be harder for us to pay our employees and keep the lights on. There is a lot at stake, and I sincerely hope lawmakers support the business community, the LGBT community, and reject this unnecessary measure.”

We urge our leaders to focus on funding for the prevention of sexual assault, on critically needed reforms to Child Protective Services and for adequate funding of our public education system. Senate Bill 6 and other discriminatory legislation is a distraction from the issue that matter most and that will improve the safety and lives of every Texan, free from discrimination and fear-mongering.

Texas lawmakers are slated to hear testimony on HB 2899 in the House Committee on State Affairs on adjournment from the House Wednesday afternoon April 19, 2017. The business coalition will testify against the bill as drafted, but hope we can work with house members to find language the business coalition can support and helps protect privacy and safety without discrimination.

For a list of tourism stakeholders opposed to SB6 and other discriminatory bills, please visit the Texas Welcomes All campaign. For a running tally of threatened or confirmed boycotts of Texas, click here. Keep Texas Open for Business represents businesses from across the state, including nearly 70 corporations urging lawmakers to reject discriminatory bills.