(Bloomberg) – Dozens of US companies, including Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Dow Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, urged Texas to scrap Governor Greg Abbott’s order that likens gender-affirming health-care for transgender children to child abuse.
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The 65 companies, which also include Microsoft Corp., Salesforce.com Inc. and Capital One Financial Corp., signed a full-page ad published in Friday’s Dallas Morning News that states in bold, capital letters: “Discrimination Is Bad For Business.”
“It’s not just wrong, it has an impact on our employees, our customers, our families and our work,” the companies wrote in the ad, organized by the advocacy group Human Rights Campaign.
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said in a tweet late Thursday that he is “deeply concerned” about laws being enacted across the US that affect members of the LGBTQ + community.
The ad is a public rebuke to Abbott from some of the biggest companies in the state. The governor is in a heated re-election fight against Democrat Beto O’Rourke, and Texas’s success in attracting business is a central plank in his campaign platform.
In the last year, Abbott, 64, has shifted his focus to so-called culture war issues to shore up support from the edges of the Republican Party’s right wing. He’s used the powers of his office to oppose President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 mandates, tighten voting rules, ban abortion at six weeks into pregnancy, and, most recently, classify some medical and surgical care for transgender kids as child abuse.
Abbott’s order says it will protect children from “reassignment surgeries that can cause sterilization, mastectomies, removals of otherwise healthy body parts, and administration of puberty-blocking drugs.”
His culture-war initiatives have generated push back from businesses concerned that they could make it harder to operate in the state and attract the best talent. But this push to the right has not slowed one of the country’s most impressive economic booms. Texas has added 4 million people over the past decade and lured companies such as Oracle Corp. and Tesla Inc.
Friday’s ad said the recent Texas legislation “creates fear for employees and their families, especially those with transgender children, who might now be faced with choosing to provide the best possible medical care for their children but risk having those children removed by child protective services for doing so. ”
“We call on our public leaders – in Texas and across the country – to abandon efforts to write discrimination into law and policy,” the ad concluded.
Jay Brown, the Human Rights Campaign senior vice president who organized the ad campaign, acknowledged that, so far, company response has been limited to criticizing the policy rather than taking actions like rolling back expansion plans in Texas. “But, this is a step up,” he said. “You do not see many companies signing a full-page ad directed at a sitting governor.”
Human Rights Campaign is following a strategy it pursued in 2016 against North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” targeting transgender people. Within months, the group rallied dozens of companies to make statements against the law, which led to more direct action, Brown said.
“That’s when you started to see folks move conferences out of the state, cease to expand in the state,” he said. “As companies really understand the impact of these kinds of laws and policies on their employees, their employees’ families, we’re going to keep working to see what they are willing to do.”
(Adds content of ad, political context throughout)
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