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LGBT groups and tech companies warn that a Texas bill could cost the state billions

Donovan Russo

04/23/2019

The Supreme Court has become the latest flash point for LGBTQ politics, agreeing to hear a case about Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and workplace discrimination. But at the local level, Texas is the current showdown state for LGBTQ rights.

Bill 17, recently passed by the Texas State Senate, sounds innocuous, but citing religious freedom as a reason for licensed professionals — doctors, lawyers and accountants — to turn away business (except in cases of severe injury or risk of death), the bill has become part of a nationwide battle between conservative politics and the business community.

Even before the Texas Senate passed the bill earlier this month — which now heads to the Texas House for a full vote — major technology companies and employers in the state, including AmazonDellApple and Facebook, sent a warning letter to legislators.

“We will continue to oppose any unnecessary, discriminatory, and divisive measures that would damage Texas’ reputation and create problems for our employees and their families,” said representatives in a joint letter, also signed by a dozen local Chambers of Commerce. “These include policies that explicitly or implicitly allow for the exclusion of LGBTQ people.”

Republican State Senator Charles Perry, a sponsor of Senate Bill 17, said his concern is not companies that provide Texas with the “almighty dollar.”

“When we see what we may perceive as immoralities, those people who hold those beliefs should be able to defend their faith ... without fear of losing their livelihood and their license,” Perry, a certified public accountant, said during a Senate hearing on March 25.

Many LGBTQ community stakeholders say the bill is a “license to discriminate,” depriving members of their human rights. Similar political battles in recent years have shown that the employers Perry dismissed as the “almighty dollar” have proved to be an important and powerful political voice in these debates.

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