As we’ve written about repeatedly over the past several months, trans athletes are being targeted across the nation as the latest front in the LGBTQ culture wars. Over the past few months, 18 states have filed legislation to restrict trans athletes from competing according to their gender identity.
However, the business community in one of those states is banding together to fight discrimination.
After the Arizona House of Representative recently passed anti-trans athlete bill HB2706 along party lines, a large number of the state’s businesses banded together to take a stand on behalf of the trans community.
In response, over 200 Arizona and nationwide businesses crafted an open letter urging the state’s lawmakers to vote “no” on the bill. These businesses are part of a coalition called ONE Community and have enlisted the help of civil rights groups and LGBTQ advocates as part of their efforts to make a difference.
The text of the open letter does not mince words when evaluating the implications of HB2706:
“This bill would create a dangerous situation for Arizona’s kids, and put our team members who have LGBTQ children in a terrible position, causing them to worry about their kids’ safety, wellbeing, and inclusion at school and in the community.”
The organizations comprising ONE Community consist of a combination of regional organizations (including the Arizona Diamondbacks) and nationwide business power players such as Uber, American Airlines, and GoDaddy.
ONE Community’s letter further lays out what could be a catastrophic economic side effect if this anti-trans bill becomes law:
“What’s more, legislation implementing discriminatory policies toward LGBTQ student athletes could limit our ability to attract major sporting events. Sponsoring organizations carefully consider a host state’s record on inclusivity and respect for LGBTQ athletes and fans when selecting venues...If Arizona were to lose the Final Four or other events due to the passage of discriminatory legislation, the ripple effects on our economy would be devastating.”
If all of this sounds familiar, it should. In 2015, for example, after then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law allowing his state’s businesses to deny services to LGBTQ patrons, a number of prominent companies such as Apple, Eli Lilly, and Angie’s List publicly criticized the law and threatened to boycott the state. This quickly prompted the Indiana legislature to amend the RFRA in order to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination.
Last month, more than 140 businesses signed a letter expressing their opposition to a slate of proposed anti-LGBTQ legislation in Tennessee.
As MetroWeekly’s John Riley notes, ONE Community’s implication that Arizona could lose major sporting events if HB2706 becomes law echoes a similar situation North Carolina faced in 2016. After the state passed anti-trans “bathroom bill” HB2 into law, the NBA quickly dropped Charlotte as a host site for its All Star Game and the NCAA moved its March Madness tournament games out of state. These high profile events only returned after the North Carolina legislature repealed HB2 in 2017.
With similar anti-trans athlete bills being recently defeated in New Hampshire and Idaho, ONE Community is hoping to add Arizona to this growing list of states where inclusion wins.
And while it is good to know that trans students in Arizona have so many powerful and well-connected allies, it does feel a bit unsettling that the business community has to stand in for a lawmaker’s conscience. But here we are. After all, even Jiminy Cricket is owned by Disney.