Open Letter

Dear Elon Musk, Here’s Why You Should Not Build Your New Tesla Factory In Texas

empicDear Elon,

You’re about to make decision that’s not just important to you, and not just important to the future of electric cars, but also important to every gay and lesbian person in America: Where to locate your new 5,000-worker, $5 billion factory that will produce highly efficient batteries to power 500,000 electric cars per year.

We love Tesla, and we admire you, but please think twice before locating your new plant in Texas, one of your leading contenders. There are alternatives: The lone star state is competing with Arizona, California, Nevada and New Mexico for this privilege. While California, where you reside, has by far the best record on LGBT rights, only Texas stands out as openly hostile to its LGBT citizens and workers.

Obviously, you need to make a business decision. But we don’t believe you are the kind of billionaire who makes decisions based on money alone. You run Tesla and SolarCity and SpaceX to save the planet, not to make more billions. We know that, and respect it immensely.

But saving the planet is not just about technology. It’s also about people. And Texas is arguably the most antigay state in the nation, led by Rick Perry, who likens gays to alcoholics. (We’ll drink to that!) It contains no statewide bans on sexual orientation discrimination, and same-sex marriage is banned. The fanatical Texas GOP, which dominates the state, recently endorsed reparative therapy for gay kids, an immoral practice tantamount to child abuse.

Remember when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the state’s antigay legislation when it reached her desk? The bill would have allowed businesses to refuse to do business with anyone suspected to be LGBT, even billionaire LGBTs. Well, Texas already has an turn-away-the-gays bill that’s been on the books since 1999. It’s called the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and it’s unpleasantly similar to the federal act that the U. S. Supreme Court is now using to pry medicine out of women’s hands. According to the law, Texas can’t “burden” a person’s free exercise of religion, unless there’s a compelling state interest to do so. And even then, the state’s action has to be the least restrictive action available.

This is as bad as anything that was proposed in Arizona. In fact, it’s worse — Texas doesn’t define “person,” so a court could easily decide that “person” could mean anything from a company to a cult or a lynch mob.

Brewer is no friend to LGBTs. Why’d she veto the bill? Well, she made vague claims about it causing “unintended and negative consequences.” But the truth is that major companies applied heavy pressure. Eighty businesses sent a letter to the governor, warning that the bill “creates a reputation that Arizona is judgmental and unwelcoming.”

That included Delta Air Lines, Major League Baseball, AT&T, Mariott, Yelp, Petsmart and, yes, the National Football League, which started making plans for alternative Super Bowl sites. Apple made a person appeal, implying that a 700-employee glass factory was hanging in the balance. And you helped, too. Brewer could hardly risk losing your potential $5 billion investment.

Now that the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are people, pregnancy prevention is abortion, and up is down, it’s time to get really worried again about discrimination bills.

But we have a secret weapon in our arsenal against that sort of thing when political leaders fail: business friends. A lot of very big, very powerful, very wealthy companies and business leaders are extremely progay–often because they depend on them as workers and consumers, and they know how to use their money–or withhold it — to influence legislators. Just look at Tim Cook.

Elon, you can make a huge statement that no one will ever forget without even having to say a word. Don’t build your mega factory in Texas. It’s simply the wrong place to be doing business.