North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce CEO Tony Vedda , left, Resource Center CEO Cece Cox, right

Campaign says bathroom bills disqualify Texas as an Amazon HQ site, even though the bills didn’t pass

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

An online campaign called “No Gay? No Way!” is encouraging Amazon to locate it’s new headquarters in a state that specifically prohibits anti-LGBT discrimination — and that does not include Texas.

Of the 20 cities on the list of finalists, 11 are in states that have no statewide LGBT protections. Texas is among the states where discrimination against LGBT people in housing, public accommodations and employment is not banned by state law.

However, finalist cities Austin and Dallas both have local ordinances that prohibit discrimination. In Dallas, in fact, voters amended the city charter to include those protections.

Although the bathroom bill died in the last session of the Texas Legislature, and in the special session that followed, Republicans have vowed to bring the issue back in the next session in 2019. And next session, House Speaker Joe Straus, who prevented that legislation from getting to the House floor, will be out of office.

Any laws passed by the Legislature would override local ordinances, just as a statewide fracking law overrode Denton’s local drilling ban and the new texting-while-driving law overrode even stricter local ordinances in some jurisdictions.

Amazon listed non-discrimination protections as one of the factors it will consider in its site selection process.

The “No Gay? No Way!” side would love Amazon to choose a city in a state with specific protections for LGBT people, and publicly shame Republicans in the Texas Legislature for the loss of 50,000 new jobs in Dallas or Austin.

Locally, some members of the LGBT community agree that Texas loses out on the Amazon HQ, blame would fall squarely on the shoulders of anti-LGBT lawmakers at the State Capitol. But local LGBT leaders don’t think the loss of Amazon would promote nondiscrimination.

North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce CEO Tony Vedda said he hopes whoever started this campaign has the best of intentions to advance equality, but he doesn’t believe this is the way to do it.

“Sure, we all want protections in our Constitution,” Vedda said. “Having a company like Amazon come to Texas will help this happen.”

He said he feels like this campaign is coming from the outside, from someone looking in but with no idea what’s going on in Texas.

Vedda even said that since gender identity and sexual orientation aren’t protected by federal laws, the campaign should urge Amazon to build its second headquarters in the one city on the finalist list that’s not in the U.S. — Toronto.

No one from the No Gay? No Way! campaign contacted any of the local or statewide groups to see if this was a campaign that would advance equality in Texas.

Dallas’ Amazon bid is considered one of the strongest, and Vedda said the city expected to be attacked. But he said this attack feels like it’s coming from within our own community.

Resource Center Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell pointed to Boeing, which picked Chicago over Dallas for its headquarters move. Nondiscrimination protection was one of the major reasons. That did nothing to encourage the Legislature to change laws that would attract business, McDonnell said.

And when Toyota chose Plano as its new U.S. headquarters, that city did add protections based on sexual orientation, although it hasn’t included gender identity in its policies.

Resource Center CEO Cece Cox said she is annoyed at the approach the No Gay? website takes.

“I think it’s detrimental to the efforts of activists and dismissive of the work getting done in these cities,” Cox said. “The campaign is not helpful to those of us doing the work on the ground.”

She called the campaign arrogant and imperious.

“This is flyover country,” she said. “Someone [else] is making decisions for us.”

Cox said the business community in Texas made it clear where it stands by helping defeat the bathroom bill twice in the last Legislature.

She also noted that since it’s not clear who’s behind the website, responding to it is difficult. Dallas Voice tried to contact the group through it’s website but didn’t receive a response.