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Business leaders fear boycott over Texas bill overturning LGBT protections

Bob Hall won 59 percent of votes and will once again represent Texas Senate District 2.
Bob Hall's bill would invalidate municipal anti-discrimination ordinances in Texas.

Business leaders and LGBT rights advocates have found common cause in opposing a bill submitted by State Sen. Bob Hall that would repeal nondiscrimination ordinances in Texas cities. 

Senate Bill 92, which was submitted by Hall on Nov. 14, would overturn ordinances protecting gay and transgender people in five cities in Texas. It would also prevent other cities from passing nondiscrimination protections against any group not already protected by state or federal law. 

Neither Texas nor U.S. state law protects gay or transgender people from discrimination. 

Opponents of the bill include some in the Texas business community who fear passage of the bill could turn Texas into a target for economic boycott .

"It's bad for business," said Chris Wallace, president of the Texas Association of Businesses, which represents over 4,000 members. 

"Our members need workers. They recruit from all over the world. We never -- from a business standpoint -- want to appear un-welcoming to future workers," Wallace said. 

"We want to keep Texas open for business. We want to maintain an environment that keeps companies moving here, that keeps companies growing and expanding our tax base. Why would you want to introduce any type of legislation that would hinder business?" he said.

Wallace added that companies "large and small" feared a backlash similar to the outrage directed at North Carolina when it passed similar legislature. 

North Carolina is estimated to have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue this year over its passage of similar legislation. Several sporting events including the 2017 NBA All Star Game, which was scheduled to be played in Charlotte, were moved elsewhere. 

Wallace cited a forthcoming study predicting losses of $8.5 billion to the state's Gross Domestic Product as well as some 185,000 jobs. The study will be released in early December, he said. 

Hall was not available for an interview request made this week. But the lawmaker has been quoted elsewhere dismissing the idea of the bill posing a risk for the Texas economy. 

"This legislation in no way prevents any private business or organization from voluntarily adopting internal polices of their choosing, but simply prohibits local governments from imposing regulatory requirements inconsistent with or not contained in state law,” Hall was quoted as saying.

He also cited the expectation to privacy and safety in bathrooms. Referring to transgender women, he said that allowing "one class of men" to use women's restrooms while "another class of men" were prevented from using them violated their constitutional rights to equal protection.

Hall filed similar legislation in 2015. 

Chuck Smith, the CEO of Equality Texas, which advocates on behalf of gay and transgender Texans, noted that the bill was backed by opponents of federal oversight. 

"It is ironic that many state legislators have complained about interference from the federal government," he told KETR. "But these same people are filing legislation to interfere in the ability of local cities to govern themselves. So, it's somewhat ironic or hypocritical."  

Smith pointed out that the bill would also nullify any local protections to veterans and students. San Antonio and Plano have ordinances protecting both U.S. military veterans and LGBT citizens from discrimination. In Austin, home of the University of Texas, an ordinance protects students from housing discrimination. 

The populations of affected cities amount to about one-third or 9 million citizens

LGBT advocates are also warning against a separate bill that would force schools to disclose the sexual orientations of students to parents upon request.  

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