Transgender student-athletes are being targeted across the country, with several state legislatures considering measures that would restrict trans boys and girls from competing in sports according to their gender identity.
But in Tennessee, the business community is rising up, warning legislators the state’s recent cluster of anti-LGBTQ laws and proposals could gravely harm the local economy.
A total of 142 businesses signed a letter this week announcing their opposition to a slate of anti-LGBTQ legislation, including two bills, House Bill 1572 and Senate Bill 1736/HB 1689, that would bar transgender schoolchildren from playing in sports consisting with their gender identity.
The group, which is collectively known as the Tennessee Businesses Against Discrimination, includes titans such as Amazon, Nike and Dell.
“Policies that signal that the state is not welcoming to everyone put our collective economic success at risk,” the letter reads, via CNBC. “It is both a business imperative and core to our corporate values that our customers, our employees and their families, and our potential employees feel fully included in the prosperity of our state.”
There is a history of businesses successfully leveraging their economic power to dissuade conservative governors from signing anti-LGBTQ legislation. The NFL, for example, threatened to pull all future Super Bowls from Atlanta if former Gov. Nathan Deal signed an anti-gay religious freedom bill into law. The legislation was eventually vetoed.
Nashville has become a hub for the high-tech industry in recent years, with Amazon planning to bring a new operations center and 5,000 jobs to the capital city.
It is a dire situation for trans student-athletes in many states with conservative governors and legislatures. Last month, Idaho became at least the eighth state to try and legalize discrimination against them. Currently, Idaho state policy says male-to-female transgender athletes must complete one year of hormone treatment before competing on girls’ teams.
This week, the chairman of the Kentucky General Assembly’s Senate Education Committee signed on as a co-sponsor of a bill that would require young athletes, including college athletes, to play on teams based on their biological sex, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.
In January, Daily Beast journalist Sydney Bauer counted 19 bills that have been filed in 11 different state legislators that would restrict the rights of trans people.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) has already signed an anti-LGBTQ bill into law this year. HB 836 permits taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Thirteen companies, including Nike and Marriot, signed a letter last year opposing the proposal.