David Edmonson is vice president of State Policy and Government Relations at TechNet, the national network of technology companies that promotes the growth of the innovation economy through bipartisan advocacy at the federal and state level in all 50 states.
American tech companies are engaged in a worldwide competition for top talent that can pick and choose where they want to live or where they want to launch the next great startup. With the expansion of remote work and tech talent spread across the country, there are larger amounts of venture capital investment and opportunity available to companies. States should enact policies that embrace businesses and are welcoming for entrepreneurs and employees. However, far too many states are doing the opposite and trying to enact anti-equality legislation that will hurt business.
There are a number of states that are currently considering anti-LGBTQ legislation, including Montana, Texas, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, North Dakota, Mississippi and Alabama. These bills would cause irrevocable harm to tech employees and their families who may already be marginalized and susceptible to harassment.
The tech industry should therefore be more vigilant than ever in opposing discriminatory state-level legislation that would target workers and their families, become an economic liability, and negatively impact businesses’ ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest employees.
Anti-LGBTQ bills are not just harmful on the human level, they’re bad economics, as well.
Tech employees want to know that they will be treated fairly as they move through their daily lives and that they, their colleagues and their families are protected from discrimination. And tech companies want to do business in states where they can recruit top talent to promote innovation. Laws that discriminate are a major barrier to that effort.
And states that care about the growth of their innovation economies should not erect institutional barriers to opportunity and make it harder to convince people to call their state home.
Anti-LGBTQ bills are not just harmful on the human level, they’re bad economics, as well. As states struggle to rebuild their economies post-pandemic, anti-LGBTQ legislation would negatively affect travel, tourism and business investments.
There is precedence. When North Carolina passed a law banning transgender people from using public restrooms in 2016, it cost the state approximately $630 million in less than a year, and 2,000 new jobs were lost due to halted corporate investments. In Indiana, citing a dangerous anti-LGBTQ law, Indianapolis-based Angie’s List froze a $40 million, 1,000-job expansion. Visit Indy found that the state lost at least 12 conventions and $60 million in revenue after the passage of the legislation.
In Arizona, an economic development study estimated potential economic damage of more than $140 million in lost meetings and conventions over three years after passage of a bill that was hostile to LGBTQ people and subsequently vetoed by their governor.
That’s why TechNet, on behalf of our member companies, recently spoke out against proposed anti-LGBTQ legislation in Montana, New Hampshire and elsewhere, making the case that welcoming, inclusive states are now 21st century economic imperatives. We plan to do so in any state that proposes similar discriminatory legislation.
We recognize the work these states have done to help the technology sector grow and be competitive in a national and global economy, but we caution legislators from doing anything that would make it more challenging to compete for the talented and highly educated workers many companies are looking to hire.
Businesses — and states — thrive when they are open to everyone. LGBTQ people are our family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors and community leaders. They deserve the same rights and opportunities.
Lawmakers in Montana, Tennessee and elsewhere are preparing to send unconscionable anti-LGBTQ bills to their governors shortly for signing. We strongly encourage state lawmakers to reject these extreme proposals to ban the LGBTQ community from fully participating in all aspects of society.
The technology industry will continue to take a strong public stance in opposing these bills, as they would be immensely harmful to our families, our employees, and the communities in which we thrive.