LGBT groups fund forecasts on economic costs of laws
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.