Open for Business...Unless You're LGBTQ+ Texans
On February 14, 2023, the Texas LGBTQ Chambers of Commerce, a coalition of the Austin LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce, North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce and San Antonio LGBT Chamber of Commerce gathered at the Texas Capitol to advocate for LGBTQ+ businesses and the LGBTQ+ community. The theme of the day was Business is Business, and the day started with great energy and enthusiasm as participants gathered from across the state ready to talk with their legislators. Thank you to our members who joined us for this important day of advocacy.
During a period of complex economic, political and social change, the coalition of Texas LGBTQ Chambers of Commerce has accomplished a lot for our state’s businesses and communities. In fact, the Texas LGBTQ Chambers of Commerce was set to receive resolutions in the House (HR 155) and Senate (SR 163) to welcome our chambers to the Texas Capitol and recognize the contributions of more than 1,000 LGBTQ+-owned and allied businesses from areas in and around Austin, Houston, North Texas and San Antonio.
Simple resolutions like this express congratulations and recognize individuals and organizations across our great state who work to make Texas a better place to live and work. These resolutions are not submitted to the governor for signing or filed with the secretary of state. They rightfully acknowledge citizens and organizations working to keep the Lone Star State prosperous, innovative, growing, and welcoming.
Unless…you’re LGBTQ+ Texans. Unfortunately, both resolutions were opposed in the House and the Senate. While other coalitions of chambers from across the state were formally recognized through resolutions in both chambers, and even their leadership on the dais of the House, the Texas LGBTQ Chambers of Commerce were not only denied formal resolutions but stripped of our dignity as we sat in the gallery and watched chamber after chamber being recognized. Our members deserve better; our members deserve respect; our members deserve to be treated like any other chamber in the Capitol.
This is in stark contrast to 2019, when the Texas LGBTQ Chambers of Commerce were recognized on the House Floor through a formal resolution.
As we sat in the gallery…each of us was reminded once again that we are second-class citizens in our state. We were reminded that our LGBTQ+-owned businesses are treated less than in a state that supposedly puts business first. It was painful sitting in the House and Senate Galleries. It could be seen on the faces of those joining us to advocate and use their voices to ensure the LGBTQ+ business community was represented.
Our opposition yesterday did not put Texas first, nor our business climate, nor our economy; in fact, quite the opposite. They put themselves first and politics first at the expense of our members sitting in the gallery and our more than 1000+ members across the state, and quite frankly, the LGBTQ+ community. This hateful act is yet one more example of the egregious actions of some Texas legislators who repeatedly want to attack and devalue the LGBTQ+ community. With more than 70 anti-LGBTQ+ bills filed this session, the opposition to these resolutions was another avenue to dehumanize the LGBTQ+ community in our state.
As companies and talent explore Texas as a state to move or expand, this action along with these 70+ anti-LGBTQ+ bills and all the anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have come before them tell a story. That story begins “Texas is NOT open for business and not open to all.” The storyline says that attacks and dehumanization of the LGBTQ+ community, and especially the transgender community, have become the norm in Texas. The story reflects the negative impact on the Texas economy.
We know that these companies and employees are factoring this dehumanization of the LGBTQ+ community into their decision about moving to Texas. And, if these companies are actively considering moving or expanding in Texas, we implore them to draw a line with Texas leaders and take a stand… LGBTQ+ Texans and the LGBTQ+ community are not a pawn in their game of politics.
So where do we go from here? Forward. We show up, we keep advocating, we oppose anti-LGBTQ+ bills and we must elect pro-LGBTQ+ leaders. The Texas LGBTQ Chambers of Commerce has much work to do, working together and with other advocacy organizations across the state to make sure Texas is open to all, but, most importantly, that LGBTQ+ Texans are treated with the dignity and respect we deserve and the opportunity to live our lives free of attacks.
If you were not able to join us for the Day at the Capitol, other LGBTQ+ advocacy groups have their advocacy days coming up…get involved, show up and use your voice. In the future, make it your priority to join the Chambers’ advocacy efforts.
Let’s not candy coat what happened yesterday. It hurt like hell, but as painful as it was sitting in that gallery, our work at the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce, North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Austin LGBT Chamber of Commerce and San Antonio LGBT Chamber of Commerce must continue to move forward and our advocacy efforts have and will grow. But this work does not happen without the support of our Members and Corporate Partners. How can you help?