Why we won’t stand for a transgender bathroom ban

Photo by Shelby Knowles for The Texas Tribune

Debates and disagreements over policy can loom large in a state with such a big economy and so many stakeholders. It’s notable, then, when many of those stakeholders line up in agreement on one issue — in this case, in opposition to Texas proposals to ban transgender people from using the restrooms that match their gender identities.

Business organizations and leaders, sports leagues and celebrities alike, from the NFL and NBA to Alicia Keys and Dell, have spoken out in opposition to Texas policy proposals that single out transgender people for exclusion from everyday activities.

More than 80 businesses have signed a letter urging Texas lawmakers to oppose any proposed discriminatory legislation that could threaten economic growth. These businesses know that to compete in the global economy — which starts with attracting and keeping top talent — we must keep Texas open for everyone. In speaking out, their voices unite with 82 percent of Fortune 500 companies in recognizing that no one should be excluded on the basis of their gender identity.

We join this chorus and applaud Speaker Joe Straus and lawmakers in the Texas House of Representatives who recognize the harm these policies would do to the state’s people and economy. We applaud the hundreds of business leaders and citizens who have been continuously and boldly speaking out against Texas bills that target transgender people with a hurtful bathroom ban. Still, it’s clear that more needs to be said — and done — to get the attention of the Texas Legislature during the current special session.

We’ve seen different versions of the bathroom ban; the latest Senate bill would force schools and local governments to monitor restrooms and could force students and employees to have to prove their gender just to use the restroom. There is no good way to enforce these laws without invading everyone’s privacy and incurring high costs for implementation. As in other states, business leaders are again an important voice speaking out against policies that hurt transgender people and make the state unwelcoming.

In the past, Texas’ reputation as a warm and welcoming state has paid off. The business-friendly climate has drawn top-notch talent, investment, and job creation from around the globe. Business leaders know that a diverse workforce is critical to being able to develop innovative products and services for a globally diverse set of customers.

Moreover, many business leaders have already welcomed LGBT people into their Texas operations, and we don’t want to see that progress undermined.

Equality and respect are American values, and should continue to be Texas values, too. There’s a reason that businesses oppose proposals that target the LGBT community for discrimination and that lawmakers in some of the most conservative states have rejected those proposals. Laws like these hurt travel and tourism, jeopardize jobs, threaten businesses and dishonor the principles our country and state were founded on.

We already know the Texas proposals would be similarly harmful. Texas legislation targeting transgender people has been decried as a disaster that would decrease travel and tourism. It’s been estimated that a bathroom bill could cost Texas $5.6 billion and tens of thousands of jobs.

Corporate America — small to large, standard-bearers to disrupters — has known for decades that having a diverse and authentic workforce is the smart thing to do. Business leaders have outpaced legislative protections by adopting company nondiscrimination policies and welcoming LGBT employees. We know that these policies are good for business and good for employees and that being out at work and welcomed by your boss and co-workers is good for morale and the bottom line.

Employees who feel comfortable and welcome at work are more likely to succeed in their careers and contribute to their teams, companies, organizations and communities. Isn’t that what we want for Texans?

We have deep concerns about any policy that would allow people to exclude or target others just because of who they are. Welcoming LGBT employees into the workforce is one of the great business success stories of the last 20 years. We trust our leaders will do the right thing and not pass this business-unfriendly and discriminatory bill before it does any more damage.

Erik Day

VP, Dell

Selisse Berry

CEO and founder, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates