Corporations speak out against Texas' attack on trans youth
Texas is taking aggressive action targeting trans youth and their families. It raises the prospect that children who receive medically appropriate care could be taken away from their parents.
The effort started with a February 18 opinion issued by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R). The opinion spends a lot of time talking about "gender reassignment surgeries" on children — something that "rarely if ever" occurs and is not part of the standard of care for trans youth. But Paxton's opinion also says that facilitating the use of "puberty-blocking drugs" by children "can legally constitute child abuse under several provisions of chapter 261 of the Texas Family Code."
Puberty-blocking drugs, however, "are reversible and are widely accepted by health experts" and are part of the standard of care for many trans youth. The use of puberty blockers is associated with "a significant improvement on the mental well-being of transgender children." Since early-onset puberty can create health issues later in life, these drugs are also approved for use in children who are not trans.
On February 22, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) issued a directive to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Citing Paxton's opinion, Abbott directed the head of the department, Jaime Masters, "to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas." Abbott's directive made clear that these investigations should include any reports of trans youth being provided with "puberty-blocking drugs."
Abbott also said that "all licensed professionals who have direct contact with children who may be subject to such abuse, including doctors, nurses, and teachers" had the obligation to report it to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Failure to do so, Abbott said, could result in "criminal penalties."
These investigations, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the ACLU and Lambda Legal, are already underway. The lawsuit, which names Abbott and Masters as defendants, was filed on behalf of a family that "has had an investigator already arrive at their house." Also joining the lawsuit is "Dr. Megan Mooney, a licensed psychologist who is considered a mandatory reporter under Texas law and cannot comply with the governor’s directive without harming her clients and violating her ethical obligations."
A large group of businesses, under the banner of Texas Competes, issued a statement opposing the actions taken by Paxton and Abbott:
We are gravely concerned about this week's use of non-binding opinions to attempt to insert the state into parents' private medical decisions for the best interests of their children…When Texas sends this dangerous message, it is at stark odds with our members' values and competitiveness — especially in a climate where all sectors have struggled to recruit and retain a talented workforce. We oppose any attempts to separate loving families; to criminalize lifesaving care; and to force teachers and medical professionals to place families in danger.
There are hundreds of businesses that are members of Texas Competes, including major corporations like Amazon, Microsoft, United, and Dell.
But it's easy to issue statements. In the past, corporations have responded to state-level attacks on trans youth by taking action. What are corporations willing to do to protect trans youth in Texas and their families?
Texas Competes supporters donate $138,000 to Abbott and Paxton
Texas Competes lists over 1,400 companies as supporters. But it’s not clear exactly how involved these companies are with the statements the group releases. (Texas Competes did not return an interview request.)
By speaking collectively, the companies are able to avoid making direct statements. As a result, it is difficult to decipher exactly what each company believes and what actions it is willing to take.
Some of the companies listed as supporters of Texas Competes have donated directly to the elected officials behind the directive. Since 2020, 11 of the companies involved in Texas Competes have donated $138,000 to Abbott and Paxton.
This group includes Allstate ($10,000), Applied Materials ($2,500), BBVA ($10,000), Capital One ($2,500), Dow Inc. ($10,000), HCA Healthcare ($10,000), JPMorgan Chase ($10,000), Norton Rose Fulbright ($45,000), Sysco ($3,000), Union Pacific ($30,000), and United Airlines ($5,000). None of these companies responded to Popular information’s request for comment.
There have also been more general statements opposing anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), for example, released a statement signed by 159 companies announcing “their clear opposition to harmful legislation aimed at restricting the access of LGBTQ people in society.”
Several companies with major presences in Texas have signed the HRC statement but are not members of Texas Competes. AT&T, headquartered in Dallas, signed the national HRC statement and has championed itself as a supporter of LGBTQ rights in the past. But AT&T is not a member of Texas Competes. Since 2020, AT&T has donated $75,000 to the officials behind the directive in Texas, including $10,000 to Paxton on February 18. AT&T did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Verizon is planning a “$285 million project” in Las Colinas, Texas to “expand its corporate campus.” Verizon also signed the HRC statement, but is not a member of Texas Competes, and has donated $10,000 to Abbott since 2020. Other major companies that signed the HRC statement but then donated to the officials behind the directive in Texas include Altria ($5,000), CVS ($10,000), Pfizer ($5,000), and Wells Fargo ($35,000).
Words matter when they are paired with action
In the past, companies have taken meaningful action to protect trans youth against attacks. Six years ago, the business community rallied against North Carolina’s bathroom bill, with some major organizations going as far as to suspend operations and threaten legal action.
Known as HB2, the law prohibited trans people from using public bathrooms and locker rooms in government buildings, including schools and universities.
Shortly after the bill was signed by then-Governor Pat McCrory (R), over 100 companies sent a letter to McCrory condemning the bill and expressing their disappointment.
The business community, by and large, has consistently communicated to lawmakers at every level that such laws are bad for our employees and bad for business. This is not a direction in which states move when they are seeking to provide successful, thriving hubs for business and economic development.
Signatories included prominent companies such as Salesforce, Accenture, Facebook, Marriott, and Microsoft — all of whom are also members of Texas Competes.
A few months later, at least 68 companies signed a brief filed in support of the Justice Department's effort to overturn the law. In the brief, the corporations argued that HB2 undermined their ability to do business and recruit a diverse workforce. According to estimates, HB2 would cost more than 1,700 jobs and more than half a billion dollars in economic activity.
Other entities took even more demonstrative action: The NBA pulled the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte in protest. PayPal, another Texas Competes’ pledge signer, halted plans to build a global operations center in Charlotte, costing the state more than 400 jobs. The N.C.A.A. temporarily canceled holding championship events in North Carolina. A&E Network, Lionsgate, and other film and TV companies announced that they would not film in North Carolina until the law was repealed.
Thus far, no company or organization has made a similar statement in response to Abbot's anti-trans directive in Texas.