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Apple, Google among dozens of corporations condemning Texas’ order to investigate families of trans kids

Posted at 4:22 PM, Mar 11, 2022

A group of more than 60 corporations — including Apple, Google, IBM and Facebook’s parent company, Meta — published an open letter Friday calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to “abandon anti-LGBTQ+ efforts” after he authorized state investigations of families who allow transgender kids to receive gender-affirming care.

The letter, published as a full-page ad in The Dallas Morning News, was also signed by Salesforce, Johnson & Johnson, Dow and Capital One. The companies said they do business, create jobs and serve customers in Texas and are committed to creating safe communities for LGBTQ people.

“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 letter said. “This policy creates fear for employees and their families, especially those with transgender children, who might now be faced with choosing to provide the best possible medical care for their children but risk having those children removed by child protective services for doing so.”

Abbott's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The letter was coordinated by the Human Rights Campaign, the country's largest LGBTQ civil rights organization. In a statement, Joni Madison, the group's interim president, thanked the companies for supporting transgender youth and said the letter sent a message to Abbott and "extremist politicians" that "hateful, harmful actions will not be tolerated."

"There is no other way to say it—this is a frightening time for Texas families," Madison said. "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. These businesses recognize this unfair ultimatum and are advocating for their LGBTQ+ employees, customers, and their families."

This week, an attorney for Amber Briggle, a North Texas woman who invited Attorney General Ken Paxton to dinner to meet her transgender son in 2016, said the state was investigating her family for child abuse. That came after Paxton said in a nonbinding legal opinion that providing transgender children with gender-affirming care is child abuse. The state has begun investigations of at least nine families.

Gender-affirming care is backed by major medical groups and includes supporting a child’s gender identity and their social transition, often with clothes or their name. The care can eventually include puberty blockers or hormone treatments; surgery is rare for children.

Access to hormone therapy and puberty-suppressing drugs is linked to lower rates of suicidal thoughts and improved mental health among trans youth.

The letter said the state’s efforts to label such care as child abuse is one of several efforts across the country aimed at discriminating against transgender youth. Last year, the state also passed a law that required transgender student athletes in public schools to play on sports teams that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate when they were born.

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

In Florida, the Legislature has advanced legislation, nicknamed the “Don’t say gay” bill, that would limit what classrooms for certain grades can teach about sexual orientation and gender identity.

The appeal to Abbott is noteworthy. Business groups are generally supportive of the governor whose low-tax, low-regulation economic policies benefit them. But occasionally, the state’s major businesses strike out vocally on social issues they deem bad for business.

In 2017, business groups made their opposition to the Legislature’s so-called bathroom bill well known. That bill would have dictated which bathrooms transgender Texans could use. Business groups said it would be bad for the economy and could lead to the cancellation of corporate and sporting events in the state.

At the time, that opposition from business was key to killing the Republican-backed bill. But more recently, the GOP has been more willing to be at odds with big business.

Last year, Texas-based American Airlines and Dell Technologies opposed the state’s restrictive voting laws because they would limit voting access. Republican leaders lambasted those two companies for that stance.

On Friday, the Trevor Project, the largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for LGBTQ youth, called on the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to end what it deemed “unjust investigations” into families of transgender children.

“The TX Department of Family and Protective Services has critical work to do in protecting young people from child abuse. This effort to redirect their resources toward the intimidation of families who support their transgender and nonbinary children is a dangerous distraction,” Sam Ames, the group’s director of advocacy and government affairs, said in a statement. “The Trevor Project urges DFPS to reject the governor’s unlawful guidance and to focus their energy on protecting all Texas youth, not persecuting the most marginalized.”

According to a 2021 Trevor Project mental health survey, more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year and 20% attempted suicide. Only 1 in 3 of transgender youth found their home to be gender-affirming, the survey said.

Disclosure: Apple, Dell, Facebook, Google and Salesforce have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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