Guest Editorial: Arizona Out of the Fray (This Time) as Texas, Others Take Turns in Religious Freedom Fights, Culture Wars

By Recker McDowell —

Texas is taking a turn in the battle over ‘religious freedom’ and LGBTQ rights.

That rings familiar in Arizona where Senate Bill 1062 prompted religious liberties versus discrimination debates in 2014.

Arizona often competes with Texas for technology, manufacturing and other jobs. Business, technology and tourism interests oppose two Texas religious freedom bills proposed in Austin this year.

If the bills pass (or keep popping up in Texas), the economic development and tourism impact could cut into the number of companies and meetings landing in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston.

That could benefit Arizona locations (especially in metro Phoenix and Pinal County) competing for high-wage jobs and business site selections.

In Texas, one fight is over a bill that would allow host of licensed occupations and service providers (such as pharmacists, doctors, real estate agents, nurses and contractors) refuse service based on religious grounds.

The other is a conservative reaction to the San Antonio City Council’s rejection of a Chick-fil-A restaurants at the San Antonio International Airport. It would restrict local governments from taking adverse actions over a group’s religious stances and donations. The San Antonio council doesn’t like Chick-fil-A’s support for social conservative causes.

The former bill has sparked opposition from businesses, technology companies and the tourism industry who argue the bill send a LGBTQ message. It comes after and other objected to a proposed a Texas transgender bathroom bill. North Carolina knows all about ‘bathroom bills’ and their impacts.

The Texas fight isn’t drawing the Alyssa Milano-led Hollywood and social media protests more restrictive abortion laws in Georgia and Alabama are.

The culture war and social wedge issue fights give other states and regions a chance to better recruit head-to-head against those areas in the middle of such battles.

College football and basketball programs know all about ‘negative recruiting’.

Like it or not, tech companies, big consumer brands and meeting planners are controversy adverse and line up with diversity over social conservatives.

That happened with Arizona over immigration and religious liberty before. It happened to North Carolina over the ‘bathroom’ and now it’s happening in other states.

But it is not happening in Arizona — this time.

That offers a chance for Arizona to be out of the fray on the other side of the controversy coin.

Austin, Texas