Mar 11, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Apple, Google, Ikea and others urge Texas to drop transgender policy

Illustration of a child in silhouette holding a transgender pride flag over their shoulders like a cape
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

More than 60 companies, including some of the largest firms in tech and finance, are calling on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to abandon an executive order that equates gender-affirming healthcare for transgender children with child abuse.

Driving the news: Apple, Google, Meta, Johnson & Johnson, Ikea, PayPal, Capital One, Electronic Arts and many more firms signed an ad running in the Friday edition of the Dallas Morning News calling the new order discriminatory.

"The recent attempt to criminalize a parent for helping their transgender child access medically necessary, age-appropriate healthcare in the state of Texas goes against the values of our companies," the ad states, according to a copy of it seen by Axios.

  • "We call on public leaders — in Texas and across the country — to abandon efforts to write discrimination into law and policy."
  • "It's not just wrong, it has an impact on our employees, our customers, their families, and our work."

Between the lines: Corporate pushback comes in reaction to the late-February order that has emboldened the state's conservative leadership while alarming activists and parents of trans children.

  • The order authorized the state to investigate parents who seek gender-affirming care for their trans children.
  • It charged doctors, nurses, teachers and other citizens who come in contact with a child receiving that care to report the parents or face "criminal penalties."
  • The investigations have been blocked by court rulings so far. A new hearing on the order is scheduled for Friday.

The big picture: Corporate pressure has had mixed success at promoting changes in controversial state laws.

  • Pressure, including from some tech companies, played a role in getting North Carolina to modify a law that prevented transgender people from accessing public restrooms in line with their gender identity.
  • Signatories to the new ad include Texas-based game studio Gearbox, which was one of more than 1,400 local business that opposed a controversial Texas law last year that effectively banned transgender student athletes.
  • Studio leadership said publicly in April 2021 that the then-proposed law "bad for business," arguing that one of its impacts would be to discourage people from moving to and working in Texas.
  • Abbott nevertheless signed the bill into law in October.

Yes, but: Employers have been less willing to speak out individually and forcefully about specific state laws than they were in past years.

  • Disney, for example, has come under fire from employees and critics for not using its clout to forcefully oppose Florida's "Don’t say gay" bill.

Thought bubble: Corporations may have found it easier to threaten to pull their business when just one or two states were pushing a particular piece of anti-gay or anti-trans legislation.

  • Now, however, battles are occurring in states all over the country ranging from whether trans kids can play on school sports teams to access to health care to what can be taught about gender and sexuality in schools.

What they're saying: "Texas state leaders are forcing parents of transgender kids to decide between abandoning their lives, quitting their jobs, and leaving the state or fostering a safe, inclusive environment for their child," Joni Madison, Human Rights Campaign interim president, said in a statement to Axios. The organization helped organize the ad.

Go deeper: Understanding Abbott's order on trans kids in Texas

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