More than 50 Houston business leaders, including heads of Texas’s top oil companies, signed a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday opposing controversial legislation that would restrict bathroom usage in government buildings and public schools based on the sex stated on birth certificates.
The legislation would also overturn local ordinances that allow transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identities.
Among those who signed the letter were John Mingé, chairman and president of BP America; Jeff Miller, president and chief executive of Halliburton; Bruce Culpepper, president of Shell Oil Co.; and Linda DuCharme, president of ExxonMobil Global Services.
“Texas has worked for decades to establish its reputation as a great place to do business,” the letter began. “In addition to our economic success, Texas has become well-known for its excellent quality of life and our welcoming, inclusive spirit — attributes that have helped draw talented individuals to the state from across the nation and around the globe.”
“As members of Houston’s business community, we write to express our concern with the proposed ‘bathroom bill’ being considered in this special legislative session,” the letter stated. “We support diversity and inclusion, and we believe that any such bill risks harming Texas’ reputation and impacting the state’s economic growth and ability to create new jobs.”
The letter said passage of such a measure would make attracting talent more difficult, and would “inhibit our growth and continued success.”
The business leaders join CEOs from 14 Dallas businesses, including AT&T, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Texas Instruments, who sent the governor a similar letter in July stating the legislation “would seriously hurt the state’s ability to attract new businesses, investment and jobs.”
The letter read much like the one from Houston, arguing that such a bill would make it difficult for the city to attract top talent.
“Our companies are competing every day to bring the best and brightest talent to Dallas,” the letter stated. “To that end, we strongly support diversity and inclusion. This legislation threatens our ability to attract and retain the best talent in Texas, as well as the greatest sporting and cultural attractions in the world.”
IBM, which has a major campus in Austin, took things a step further by placing full-page ads opposing the legislation in the Dallas Morning News, San Antonio Express-News and Austin American-Statesman, according to the Dallas Morning News.
The legislation failed to pass in May during the regular legislative session. In July, the governor called a special session, in part to address the matter. The Texas Senate passed the legislation July 26 and sent it to the House.
This bill closely mirrors the law that made North Carolina a national battleground for transgender bathroom rights last year.
Many protested the law, including President Obama and PayPal. Several musical artists, including Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr and Ani DiFranco, protested by canceling concerts in North Carolina. In response, Target released a statement saying that transgender people are allowed to use the bathroom of their choice in its stores.
The Justice Department eventually filed a civil rights lawsuit against the state.
“This action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms,” Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said at the time. “This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we, as a people and as a country, have enacted to protect them.”
The Trump administration dropped the lawsuit in April.
The law also proved to be a financial detriment, with one Associated Press assessment claiming that it could cost the state at least $3.7 billion by 2028.
The law was eventually repealed in March.
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