Fort Worth Chamber joins coalition opposing ‘bathroom’ bill

The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors unanimously voted this week to join Texas Competes, a coalition of businesses and pro-business organizations making a business case for equality in the state.

“Fort Worth has led the way in non-discrimination policies for almost two decades, which has helped us attract corporate relocations, expansions, skilled talent, conventions and tourists,” said Bill Thornton, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Chamber. “Companies have cited our inclusive policies as one of the reasons they choose to invest in Fort Worth. We must continue to send the message that Texas is a diverse and welcoming state or risk losing billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.”

The Fort Worth Chamber is one of several other large chambers supporting the coalition, including the Dallas Regional Chamber, Greater El Paso Chamber, Houston Partnership, Greater Austin Chamber and United Corpus Christi Chamber.

Texas Competes is an organization of businesses and chamber of commerce from around the state. The organization is opposing a proposal supported by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and several other Texas leaders that would bar transgender people in Texas from using the bathroom of their choice. Texas business leaders and some key Legislative leaders, such as House Speaker Joe Strauss say any such law, similar to the measure passed by North Carolina, could have severe economic fallout for the state.

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“Many people where I come from get concerned about anything that can slow down the overall job-creating machine,” Straus, a San Antonio Republican, told a gathering of the Texas Association of Business earlier this month. “I think we should be very careful about doing something that can make Texas less competitive for investment, jobs and the highly skilled workforce needed to compete.”

An economic impact study commissioned by the Texas Association of Business found that if the legislation passes, the state could lose $8.5 billion in GDP and 185,000 jobs.

“All Texans care deeply about safety and privacy, but Senate Bill 6 isn’t about either of those things,” said Chris Wallace, president of the Texas Association of Business in a news release. “Senate Bill 6 is discriminatory and wholly unnecessary legislation that, if passed, could cost Texas as much as $8.5 billion in GDP and the loss of more than 185,000 jobs in the first year alone.”

The bill would also nullify Fort Worth’s local non-discrimination ordinances, according to a release from the Fort Worth Chamber. In 2000, Fort Worth passed an ordinance to protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 2009, the city expanded the ordinance to include protection of individuals based on gender identity.

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In May, Fort Worth found itself at the center of this bathroom policy issue when Patrick called for Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scriber to resign after approving a bathroom policy to accommodate transgender students. Fort Worth ISD later modified the policy.