The Cost of Discrimination Just Went Up

Pay attention, Texas lawmakers: The cost of laws that encourage individuals and businesses to discriminate against LGBT people just went up. On Wednesday the NCAA Board of Governors adopted a new requirement that sites seeking to host events like the Final Four for men and women’s basketball must “demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event.”

The NCAA’s press release announcing the new requirement explicitly calls out “recent actions of legislatures in several states, which have passed laws allowing residents to refuse to provide services to some people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.” The article also notes that this isn’t the first time the NCAA has taken a stand against hate and divisiveness:

“Historically, the Association  has used the opportunity to host its events as a means to make clear its values. The Association now prohibits championships events with predetermined sites in states where governments display the Confederate battle flag, and prohibits NCAA members from hosting championships events if their school nicknames use Native American imagery that is considered abusive and offensive.”

This is a big deal. The economic impact of just the men’s Final Four (never mind all the other NCAA events each year) reaches into the hundreds of millions of dollars for host cities.

Earlier this month Dave Welch of the Houston-based, religious-right group Texas Pastor Council sent letters to North Carolina and Mississippi officials in support of anti-LGBT laws recently passed in those states. Welch’s organization supported repeal of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which barred anti-LGBT discrimination, last fall. His letters insisted that worries about such pro-discrimination efforts costing cities and states important events like NCAA championships were overblown:

“As you know, the Final Four of the NCAA was just held in Houston and although the final result was a heartbreaker for your great state, the radical LGBT movement’s threat to get this event, the Super Bowl, conferences and corporate bases out of Houston was shown to be a paper tiger and the raw use of intimidation.”

Welch is whistling past the graveyard. The NCAA has now made it clear that it won’t tolerate anti-LGBT discrimination when making future decisions on where to locate its events. That adds the NCAA to a growing list of organizations as well as businesses that are taking a stand against discrimination.

In the weeks since North Carolina passed its law promoting discrimination against LGBT people, for example, the economic backlash to such actions has been growing. Businesses like PayPal and Deutsche Bank have cancelled plans to expand in the state. Numerous associations have have also halted plans to locate conventions and other events there. Those decisions are costing North Carolina jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity.

Some Texas lawmakers have already made clear that they will try to pass anti-LGBT legislation when they return to Austin in January. Prominent Republicans like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are also insisting that the Legislature pass a law forcing transgender people to use the wrong restroom. They’re using discredited “bathroom predator” myth in support of such hateful efforts.

The powerful Texas Association of Business has repeatedly state lawmakers that passing such legislation next year will damage the state’s economy. What’s happening in North Carolina and elsewhere is proof of that. The NCAA just added its clout to the same argument.