Texas business groups, which have seen how 'religious freedom' laws passe dto restrict same sex and transgender rights have damaged economic activity in other states, have formed a lobbying group specifically to fight similar measures from being passed in the Texas Legislature, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The group, called 'Texas Competes,' will face a powerful foe. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, the leader of the movement conservatives in Texas, says rolling back efforts, for example, to expand transgender bathroom use, will be one of his key priorities.
"I believe it is the biggest issue facing families and schools in America," Patrick said.
Patrick also wrote a letter to Texas school superintendents warnign them not to follow Presiident Obama's orders expanding transgender rights.
"We cannot afford to have our brand of our state be hostile toward that group fo people," said Jessica Shortall, who heads Texas Competes.
Shortall says the threats from Patrick to crack down on superintendents and other officials who expand transgender rights were actually driving business into her camp.
"In the couple weeks or a month, that bathrooms were all we were talking about in Texas, was our single biggest period of growth," she said.
Business groups say potential new employers look at restrictions that might be placed on their workers before making the decision to locate in a state, because they are concerned that those restrictions might prevent them from hiring top quality employees. Tech firms, in particular, are particularly sensitive to efforts to roll back protections for same sex couples and deny rights to transgender individuals.
Among the proposals being considered is one that would allow private companies to refuse to provide goods and services to same sex couples if it violates their 'deeply held' religious beliefs, and one that would bar public entities, like school districts, from making accommodations for transgender students.
The NBA recently removed the 2017 All Star Game from Charlotte in reaction to North Carolina's approval of similar measures, but Texas Competes is worried more about limitations on business expansion which may result from such legislation.
Shortall says her organization, which she says 'stand shoulder to shoulder with LGBT Texans,' now numbers more than one thousand businesses.