LGBT groups fund fore­casts on eco­nomic costs of laws

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY BRAD­FORD RICHARD­SON

The Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness has been an out­spo­ken op­po­nent of the state’s pro­posed trans­gen­der bath­room bill, pre­dict­ing the leg­is­la­tion will lead to a mas­sive eco­nomic back­lash and cost the state as much as $8.5 bil­lion in lost busi­ness.

The In­di­ana Cham­ber of Com­merce was sim­i­larly alarmed by the 2015 push for the Re­li­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act, ar­gu­ing that it would neg­a­tively af­fect the state’s “abil­ity to at­tract and re­tain jobs, tal­ent and in­vest­ment.”

Florida Com­petes, a small-busi­nesses ad­vo­cacy group in the Sun­shine State, has tire­lessly cham­pi­oned a bill that would make sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­tity pro­tected classes un­der the Florida Civil Rights Act. The amend­ment, the group says, would boost Florida’s eco­nomic out­put by more than $5 bil­lion and cre­ate nearly 36,000 jobs over the next 10 years.

These small-busi­ness coali­tions and oth­ers across the coun­try share a com­mon source of fund­ing: the na­tional LGBT rights move­ment.

Since the le­gal­iza­tion of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, the de­bate over gay and trans­gen­der rights has in­creas­ingly been framed in eco­nomic terms.

With prod­ding from the LGBT move­ment, powerful cor­po­ra­tions have threat­ened to pull busi­ness out of states if their de­sired pol­icy out­comes are not met.

Promi­nent gay rights or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the Hu­man Rights Cam­paign and the Gill Foun­da­tion, have also qui­etly poured hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars into a net­work of small-busi­ness coali­tions that rou­tinely make doom-and-gloom eco­nomic prog­nos­ti­ca­tions about so­cially con­ser­va­tive leg­is­la­tion.

Tony McDon­ald, le­gal coun­sel of the con­ser­va­tive non­profit Em­power Tex­ans, said the gay rights move­ment has re­lied more on cor­po­rate in­flu­ence to im­ple­ment its agenda since the le­gal­iza­tion of same­sex marriage. Forc­ing Chris­tian bak­ers to par­tic­i­pate in same-sex wed­dings and al­low­ing trans­gen­der peo­ple to use re­strooms of the op­po­site bi­o­log­i­cal sex just don’t carry the same emo­tional ap­peal as the fight for marriage equal­ity.

“It was a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar ef­fort to le­gal­ize gay marriage in the United States, and it’s not as if those peo­ple aren’t go­ing to show up for work the next day,” Mr. McDon­ald said. “If any­thing, they’re go­ing to try to be more ac­tive be­cause they’ve won, and I think that’s what we’ve seen.”

Fol­low the money

Em­power Tex­ans pub­lished a leaked doc­u­ment on Aug. 1 show­ing that Keep Texas Open for Busi­ness, a coali­tion spear­headed by the Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness, has re­ceived $130,000 in con­tri­bu­tions from na­tional gay rights or­ga­ni­za­tions to op­pose the state’s pro­posed trans­gen­der bath­room bill.

The two-page pa­per is ti­tled “Coali­tion In­vestors” and shows $50,000 in do­na­tions from Gill Ac­tion, $15,000 from the Gill Foun­da­tion, $40,000 from the Hu­man Rights Cam­paign and $25,000 from Free­dom for All Amer­i­cans.

That makes up nearly half of the $300,000 in to­tal cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions listed on the doc­u­ment. Other donors in­clude Ama­zon, Ap­ple and In­tel.

The Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness, which merged with the state cham­ber of com­merce in 1995, said the doc­u­ment rep­re­sents a snap­shot of the move­ment’s do­na­tions at that time and is not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the coali­tion’s back­ers.

Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott, a Repub­li­can, called a 30-day spe­cial ses­sion on July 18 to pass the bath­room bill and other leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties.

The bath­room bill is op­posed by House Speaker Joe Straus, a Repub­li­can, who says he is con­cerned that the bill would slow down eco­nomic growth and job cre­ation.

In its cam­paign against the bath­room bill, the Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness has com­mis­sioned mul­ti­ple stud­ies pre­dict­ing that the state could lose as much as $8.5 bil­lion in gross do­mes­tic prod­uct and as many as 185,000 jobs.

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