AUSTIN, TX -- More than 200 small business owners penned an open letter on Tuesday decrying conservative lawmakers' efforts to craft a law banning transgender individuals from using bathrooms based on their gender with which they identify themselves.

"We, the undersigned, are Texas small business owners," the letter begins. "We are at the heart of the Texas economy, and of Texas communities. We come from industries and communities all over the state. We employ local people, we pay taxes, and we work hard to make a living and make a difference in the lives of our employees and customers."

As such, the business owners said, they have watched developments in North Carolina -- where a anti-transgender bill was signed in March -- with dismay.

"That’s why we’re watching what’s unfolding in North Carolina with a growing sense of dread," the business owners wrote. "Experts put economic damage from the discriminatory HB2 law at $395 million and rising. That damage is coming from the loss of corporate investments, talent, performances, sporting events, and conventions."

The group said Republican lawmakers are threatening jobs and the Texas economy in general in pursuing their own legislation to ban transgender people from using the bathrooms of their choice.

“That’s why we oppose any Texas legislation — broad or narrow — that would legalize discrimination against any group,” the letter reads. “That kind of legislation doesn’t just go against our values to be welcoming to everyone, it jeopardizes the businesses we’ve worked so hard to create, and it threatens the jobs and livelihoods of everyday Texans.”

The group's members said Texas faces a similar backlash should GOP leaders proceed in a move they said would cost hundreds of millions to state coffers as a result of cancelled concerts, conventions, corporate investments and sporting events.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has led the charge against transgender people's unfettered access to the bathrooms of their choice, saying allowing them into their preferred bathrooms would open the door to sexual predators preying on women and children.

During a speech at the Dallas Regional Chamber on Oct. 20, Patrick doubled down on the idea of banning transgender people from the bathrooms of their choice, re-packaging his effort as the envisioned "Women's Privacy Act," as reported by WFAA-TV

Patrick told the gathering: "Transgender people have obviously been going into the ladies’ room for a long time, and there hasn't been an issue that I know of. But, if laws are passed by cities and counties and school districts allow men to go into a bathroom because of the way they feel, we will not be able to stop sexual predators from taking advantage of that law, like sexual predators take advantage of the internet.”

He told the audience passing his "Women's Privacy Act" would be a priority in the 2017 legislative session.

Passage of the North Carolina law known as House Bill 2 has had a detrimental effect on that state's economy. Citing the law's rebuke of inclusion, the NCAA moved seven championship contests out of North Carolina as a result -- including first- and second-round games of the 2017 men's basketball tournament.

The NBA followed suit, pulling February's All Star Game from the state. And the Atlantic Coast Conference pulled its football championship and women's basketball tournament as well as other title events.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also stands in fervent opposition to allowing transgender people to use their choice of bathrooms. In response to ultimately unsuccessful efforts by President Barack Obama to outline transgender policy guidelines for school districts nationwide to follow, Abbott mocked the initiative in a tweet: "JFK wanted to send a man to the moon. Obama wants to send a man to the women's restroom," Abbott wrote.

they hope conservative lawmakers will drop their plans or risk following in the economic fate of other states with laws discriminatory to transgender people.

"We can’t afford the losses seen in North Carolina, Indiana, and elsewhere," the business owners wrote.
"We want Texas to stay open for business for everyone. In 2017, we hope our elected officials will remember the small business community when they go to work."

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