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Leslie McMurrayWith the Texas State Fair coming along soon, I started wondering, what if Big Tex were to suddenly change his welcome speech: “Howdy Folks! Now take your business Elsewhere!”

After listening to the condescending tone of Texas State Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, during a recent Facebook Live roundtable hosted by CBS 11, I couldn’t help but ask, when did Texas Republicans lose their “pro business” stance?

I was part of a six-person panel moderated by Jack Fink, CBS 11 political reporter. Maintaining my composure during the onslaught of hate wasn’t easy.

Considering the bathroom bills filed and awaiting debate in the Legislature’s special session, SB4 (the “show me your papers” bill) and bills seeking to undo protections in non-discrimination ordinances, like the one Dallas has in force, it seems that while Republicans for ages have trumpeted “local control,” saying cities across Texas could govern themselves better than state lawmakers, they have now had a change of direction. Now it is Texas Democrats that are fighting against anti-business legislation.

Pro discrimination? Not a Texas value, according to the 1,300 businesses that Texas Competes says have signed a letter opposing discrimination in the Lone Star State. Yet Rep. Sanford claimed that these business leaders didn’t know what they were signing.

I don’t even know where to start with that ignorant and insulting statement.

IBM took out a full-page ad in the Dallas Morning News, San Antonio Express-News and Austin American Statesman opposing any legislation that discriminates against transgender Texans. They also dispatched key executives to Austin to try to put a stop to this bill. That sounds to me like they knew exactly what they were signing.

Sanford’s arrogance in taking business for granted could come back to bite him. Hard.

And IBM isn’t alone; companies ranging from Dow Chemical to Nordstrom to United Airlines, from LaQuinta Hotels to Sea World, Dell, Allstate and Hewlett Packard — along with more than a thousand others — have signed on to stand against discrimination.

If Texas isn’t careful, other states will be only too happy to take a bite out of our No. 4 ranking among top states for business.

Actually, that No. 4 ranking doesn’t tell the whole story. Ok, so Texas ranks No. 1 in workforce. But if the members of that workforce don’t feel accepted and protected, they will go elsewhere.

And when you look a little further, Texas ranks middle of the pack in economy (No. 25) and lower in terms of quality of life (No. 37). We are No. 34 in education and, perhaps most telling, No. 24 in business friendliness.

So legislators take note: If you are going to vote in more legislation that discriminates against a quality workforce, brace for impact. It won’t be fun.

Rep. Sanford was correct in pointing out that North Carolina is No. 5 on the list, implying HB2 — North Carolina’s infamous bathroom bill — didn’t have the economic impact critics predicted it would. Then Sanford claimed Texas would be unaffected as well. But Phillip Jones, CEO of Visit Dallas, disagreed, saying that the full impact of HB2 has yet to be felt as conventions and conferences are booked well in advance.

If, as Sanford says, there was no economic backlash against HB2, that makes me wonder why it was repealed (if only halfway and haphazardly).

Maybe because the NFL, NBA, NCAA and more than 100 performing artists threatened to leave North Carolina off of their list as possible site for high-profile events. Losing the NBA All-Star game was one thing, but losing NCAA tournament games in a hoops-crazy state like North Carolina was unacceptable.

The simple fact is, discrimination is just plain bad for business. It’s also not a “Texas Value.”

Obviously, Rep. Sanford holds the truth in the same “high regard” as does Donald Trump. In addition to lying about businesses not knowing what they signed, Sanford claimed that affirming care by parents of transgender kids is “child abuse.”

This has been proven false. His assertion that parents push gender identity on kids is just plain ignorant. The best parenting permits children to be who they are. Denying their identity leads to tragic outcomes.

During the discussion, I pointed out that there are thousands of homeless children in Texas, many of them on the street because of parental rejection. I suggested Sanford worry less about where children pee and maybe concern himself with where they sleep.

But my suggestion fell on deaf ears.

Sanford, who is a Baptist executive pastor in addition to being a state representative, did express the need to protect college co-eds from sexual assault on college campuses. I suggested he start with Baylor. (Was that wrong?) He was being a good Republican, mouthing the same tired (and discredited) tropes about trans people that could have come from Dan Patrick’s hand up his back or the playbook from hate group Family Research Council.

Texas Republicans seem nostalgic for the days of Jim Crow laws. Have we learned nothing? Diversity and equality are good for business, good for building strong communities and a recipe for strong growth.

All of this noise about bathroom bills, repealing non-discrimination ordinances and replacing them with “religious freedom” license to discriminate bills are the death throes of a dying breed of dinosaurs known as the Republican Party.

The rifts we are seeing now will only grow wider as those on the extreme ends draw their final lines in the sand.

Texas Republicans used to be thoroughly pro business. But now, other than discrimination and separation, I can’t figure out what else Republicans are for.

Seriously, 2018 can’t come soon enough. Texas deserves better.

Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 21, 2017.