Connecting state and local government leaders
IBM on Monday said it would send top executives to persuade state lawmakers to drop their cause.
IBM is the latest major company to step up its fight against Texas’s bathroom bill, which lawmakers will likely debate in the coming week as they work through a special session. IBM sent an internal memo Monday to employees around the world that called the bill discriminatory. The company also dispatched about 20 executives to persuade lawmakers against passing the bill.
The Texas bill would force transgender citizens to use the bathroom that corresponds with the identity listed on their birth certificates in public facilities like government offices and schools that receive state funding. It would void local laws passed by cities that extend non-discrimination rights—as they pertain to bathroom use—to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender residents. The bill is modeled after one passed by North Carolina last year. Much of that bill has since been repealed, in large part because of pressure from businesses and canceled sporting and music events.
The Texas bathroom bill, Senate Bill 6, was introduced by Texas Republicans and has become a special project of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. It is largely backed by religious groups and social conservatives, but more moderate Republicans and those worried about the measure’s impact on the economy, including House Speaker Joe Straus, have criticized the bill as a reputation-killer. Many major tech companies have already come out against the measure, including Apple, Amazon, Google, Cisco, and Facebook. Another letter on Monday signed by 14 CEOs from Dallas-based companies like American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, At&T, and Texas Instruments also urged legislators to drop the bill. “Our companies are competing every day to bring the best and brightest talent to Dallas,” the letter read. “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.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said he supports the bill on the grounds that it’s needed to protect “the privacy of women and children,” adding the state needs to clear up what is now “a patchwork quilt of conflicting local regulations.”
“At a minimum,” Abbott said in June, “we need a law that protects the privacy of our children in our public schools.”
Under the current bill, transgender residents would have to switch their birth certificates before they were allowed to use the restroom of their preference. Critics say this process is confusing, and there is no statewide procedure in place to do so. As The Texas Tribune reported, five cities with populations of 100,000 or more in Texas have passed their own ordinances protecting LGBT rights in employment and in public places. This bill would void those local ordinances.
J. Weston Phippen is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where this article was originally published.