Since 2020, there has been a devastating uptick in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation moving in state legislatures across the country. Many of these bills target transgender kids by trying to strip them of life-saving resources and further isolate them from their peers. Throughout our fight to defeat these bills, businesses have played an important role in stopping some of this discriminatory legislation, both in private lobbying efforts with lawmakers as well as public actions.
Corporate leaders have stated they value creating inclusive and welcoming environments for their employees, families and communities, and discriminatory policies undermine these goals. Recently, more than 250 major U.S. companies signed onto a letter with HRC and Freedom For All Americans opposing the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation nationwide. The letter was originally released in 2020, and sign-ons have quadrupled in the last year, as more companies condemn the continued attacks on our community. Corporations must continue speaking out because it’s the right thing to do, and because we’ve seen the power businesses can have in swaying crucial battles for LGBTQ+ rights.
The sign-on letter reads:
“These [anti-LGBTQ+] bills would harm our team members and their families, stripping them of opportunities and making them feel unwelcome and at risk in their own communities. As such, it can be exceedingly difficult for us to recruit the most qualified candidates for jobs in states that pursue such laws, and these measures can place substantial burdens on the families of our employees who already reside in these states. Legislation promoting discrimination directly affects our businesses, whether or not it occurs in the workplace.”
A TURNING POINT IN HB2
In 2016, North Carolina passed HB2, a law banning transgender people from using public bathrooms and overturning any local laws protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Employers, corporations, entertainers, conferences, and even other states joined in international condemnation of the discriminatory law. The NBA and NCAA canceled major events in the state, PayPal halted plans to expand in the state and several musicians and artists canceled concerts. Companies sent a clear message to lawmakers that discrimination was bad for business. Gov. Pat McCrory’s reelection bid failed, with voters citing HB2 as the most significant reason to vote against him. Ultimately, the law was partially repealed.
At the time, HB2 was one of the most extreme, anti-LGBTQ+ legislative packages a state had passed in decades – a key inflection point in our fight for full equality. In 2022, we’re at another crossroads for LGBTQ+ rights in state legislatures. For the third year in a row, extremist conservative lawmakers have made LGBTQ+ rights, specifically transgender rights, a wedge issue to garner support from their base. Texas, Florida, Arizona and, most recently, Alabama, have all captured national attention for pushing a slew of discriminatory bills and policies. We’ve worked with businesses in these states and across the country to once again send a message that anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is bad for families, bad for employees and bad for business.
BUSINESS ENGAGEMENT IN THIS YEAR’S SESSIONS
In an open letter released as a full page ad in the Dallas Morning News, over 60 companies joined HRC in condemning attacks on Texas transgender youth by Gov. Greg Abbott and other elected officials. In the weeks prior, Abbott directed the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to treat age-appropriate, medically necessary care as child abuse. The directive sent shockwaves through our community in Texas and left many families worried about their safety and future in the state. In addition to signing onto our letter, many executives amplified their support of transgender youth on social media.
“As a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, I am deeply concerned about laws being enacted across the country, particularly those focused on our vulnerable youth. I stand with them and the families, loved ones, and allies who support them.” - Apple CEO, Tim Cook
In Florida, the education censorship legislation widely known as the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill garnered national attention. The law prevents any discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-5 – an attempt to erase LGBTQ+ families and people from classrooms.
Disney, which has a major corporate presence in Florida, was originally silent on this bill. Following pressure from their LGBTQ+ employees, the public and HRC’s refusal to accept funds from the company until it meaningfully worked for the law’s demise, Disney issued a statement calling for the repeal of the law and committed company resources to state and national organizations working to achieve it. Gov. DeSantis reacted by using the power of the state to revoke the company’s special tax status. Despite this egregious use of his executive power to prioritize attacking LGBTQ+ people, Disney has not retreated from its call for a repeal.
We encourage employees at companies across the country to take stock in what their employers have and haven’t done to speak out against anti-LGBTQ+ actions by elected officials. Employees’ voices often make the most impact internally in getting a company to do more to ensure their LGBTQ+ workers, families and customers have equal rights inside and outside the company.
We truly cannot overstate how damaging and cruel this anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is. Corporations must continue their lobbying efforts to kill anti-LGBTQ+ legislation before it moves through the legislative process and must use every resource at their disposal to publicly condemn bad bills enacted into law. Some 90% of anti-LGBTQ+ state legislation dies every legislative cycle before it ever reaches the desk of a governor.
Having corporate allies leverage their relationships and influence to make the business case of why these discriminatory policies are bad for their employees and bottom line is an important factor in helping defeat these harmful bills. We’re excited to continue working alongside businesses — and holding them accountable when necessary — to create inclusive environments within their businesses and the communities where their employees and their families live.
• If you are a large employer, sign the national statement if you haven’t already at hrc.im/businessletter.
• If you are a reader and your employer hasn’t signed the statement, ask them to.
• If you are an employer, sign the TX ad at hrc.im/texasbusinessletter.
• Sign up for our public policy briefings and alerts at hrc.im/corppublicpolicy