A group of local visitor bureaus, businesses, lawmakers, and associations spoke out against the proposed Texas “bathroom bill” on Monday as the legislature prepared to kick off a 30-day special session.
As Texas legislators convene for a special session to discuss a 19-item agenda, including the state’s proposed “bathroom bill,” the Texas Welcomes All and Keep Texas Open for Business coalitions—along with state CVBs, business leaders, lawmakers, and other groups, including ASAE—denounced the bill as discriminatory in a Monday press conference at the State Capitol.
“We stand with our partners here in Texas in opposition to any proposed legislation that tolerates discrimination or seeks to limit existing protections for the LGBTQ community,” ASAE President and CEO John H. Graham IV, FASAE, CAE, said at the press conference. “There have been various versions offered, but these so-called bathroom bills have been debated all session here in Texas, and they represent manufactured and unnecessary legislation.”
While condemning provisions in the bill that would overturn antidiscrimination ordinances passed at the city level, opponents also noted that the measure would have, and already has had, a significant economic impact on Texas.
“Proponents of this type of legislation are insisting that there will be no economic repercussions associated with the passing of this bill, but I am here to warn you that they are wrong,” Graham continued. “When you create an unwelcoming environment for meeting and event planners and their attendees, there is a strong incentive for groups to hold their meetings elsewhere. They simply won’t put their members at risk of feeling unsafe or, even worse, potentially denied services or public accommodations while they are here.”
According to Texas Welcomes All, the state has already lost $66 million in revenue due to cancellation of events that were to have been held in Austin, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Arlington.
“Wholly unnecessary and highly discriminatory legislation is threatening Texas’ reputation as open and welcoming for businesses and families. The pursuit of a bathroom bill represents a willful disregard for those vulnerable people and for businesses, workers, and communities all across our state,” Phillip Jones, president and CEO of VisitDallas, said in a press release. “The economic costs are already being felt, and they cut to the heart of our tourism industry, our small businesses, and everyday Texans working to make ends meet.”
In addition, a study from AngelouEconomics, commissioned by the Texas Association of Business, found that statewide losses could amount to $5.6 billion by 2026 if the bill passes.
“When businesses succeed, Texas communities and families succeed. The bathroom bill would result in terrible economic consequences—on talent, on tourism, on investment, on growth, and on small businesses,” TAB CEO Jeff Moseley said in the statement.
A lineup of businesses with operations in Texas also oppose the legislation. Phil Gilbert, global head of design at IBM, said the bill clashes with the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, which “go hand-in-hand with innovation.”
“We want to continue to see a world-class pipeline of innovators and thinkers who are excited to put down roots in Texas, and discriminatory measures like bathroom bills put that at risk,” Gilbert said in the news release. “IBM is going straight to the legislature to make our case that these types of laws are bad for business and bad for Texas.”
The coalitions have encouraged those participating in the press conference to lobby state representatives on Tuesday, the first day of the special session. The session, called by Gov. Greg Abbott, is scheduled to last 30 days.