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.




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  • vive

    Musk may be gay, but he is also quite the little right wing nutter. So I don’t see why he would care.

  • bobmister250

    @vive He’s not gay. Also California is a nice place to visit, but doing business there is a nightmere and not even close to worth it. While I agree that Texas is a nice place to do business and people in the major cities are not too bad, people in the boonies are terrible(so I’ve heard). When it comes down to it, while Tesla as a company supports gay rights and gay marriage, they will make the choice that is in the best interests of the company without much regards to external factors such as this.

  • grapeexpectations

    He looks like Davey Wavey in 25 years

  • Stache99

    @grapeexpectations: Gee. Of all things you can take away from the article and a dumb superficial comment. Go back to commenting on Tom Daley articles and leave the grown ups to talk sweety.

  • DarkZephyr

    “led by Rick Perry, who likens gays to alcoholics. (We’ll drink to that!)”

    Gah, for me that ruined the impact of an otherwise awesome piece.

  • Nowuvedoneit

    Texas is all screwed up because of the gerrymandering they did to the precincts. They loaded it heavily in Republican favor and now we have this situation. I was born in Texas, and it’s an ok state except for it’s politicians. I’m glad I don’t live there anymore that’s for sure.

  • Merv

    The good thing about locating the plant in Texas is that it has very little natural beauty to destroy.

  • qbuff

    I get the spirit of this post and agree with most of it, but holding up Tim Cook as an example of corporate gay CEOs willing to punish those who do business in Texas is so wrong. He just finished a tour of Apple’s huge new facility in Austin, and proudly talked about their “exciting products being built there.”

    If he’s willing to look past Texas’s crap record for LGBTs, I’m pretty sure Elon won’t have a problem either.

  • Queer4Life

    @Nowuvedoneit: What state isn’t gerrymandered? The whole political system is jacked (not in a good way) and taking us all for a ride. The Democins and Republocrats are the same. They are both funded by exactly the same people (if you don’t believe me look it up). They both want to control people. Sure rhetorically they sound slightly different, but I think the fact that we are now in George Bush’s 4th term ought to prove by now there is no difference.

    The only viable alternative to Texas that is mentioned is Arizona. Texas however has a lot to offer over Arizona not the least of which is that it is friendlier to business.

    What many in the queer community have forgotten since Stonewall is that its not about municipal, county, state, or even federal law. Put the damn gun down for ten seconds and realize the reason why WE (the Queer community) have come so far in the past 50 years is the culture. Changing a law doesn’t do crap except to piss off the opposition and make sure they take the 30in dildo to us without lube when they get power back (not my idea of a good time). Change the culture however and you make it impossible for them to walk all over us.

    By all the gods won’t somebody please frakking remember Stonewall.

  • tdx3fan

    @qbuff: Guess that makes my decisions easier. I don’t own an Apple product and never will. However, that has to do with three things: 1) They make crap overpriced products that only appeal to Apple fans, 2) They make those products primarily in Chinese sweat shops and 3) They overprice the hell out of the products that they do make in comparison to their competitors.

    I think the fact that they have plants in Austin is actually a step up since their major production for years has been “international.”

  • tdx3fan

    @Queer4Life: Changing laws often does change the culture. If you think that the civil rights movement would be as advanced as it is now without the Civil Rights act then I don’t know what to tell you. The first years after that act were extremely difficult.

    You need to focus on changing both. Also, you cannot even remotely argue that Dems and Reps are on the same page regarding any issues or even funding. I shouldn’t have to look it up… and can’t since it isn’t happening… but if you think it is you should be able to easily offer up examples.

    Economically speaking the Republicans are on the right path, socially speaking the Democrats are on the right path. I could care less about ENDA and the courts will decide marriage, so I’m more likely to lean Republican at this point.

  • vive

    @bobmister250, sorry, I keep confusing him with Peter Thiel, who is gay and a bit of a nutter politically.

  • Nowuvedoneit

    @Queer4Life: Stonewall didn’t change society in by itself it changed the gay society,. From there on it was about finding allies and local city governments amiable to rights issues. Regardless what you think without elected officials like Harvey Milk, change wouldn’t happen if it was just left to the people. If you need proof look at all the marriage bans that took effect and now are falling because of elected officials.

  • Merv

    @tdx3fan: Your comment started out great, then you had to ruin it by praising Republicans. Republicans are not on the right path economically. They’re the ones who have been pushing deficit spending for the last 35 years. Fiscal conservatism means only one thing, and it’s not low taxes. It’s low deficits. We were in rough balance by the end of the Clinton administration. We’ve been suffering the effects of Bush’s multiple tax cuts ever since.

    Also, the reason we’ve had any success in the courts is because not all judges are right wing. We have a bare majority in the Supreme Court. One more Republican replacement of a current liberal or moderate and we won’t.

  • Queer4Life

    @Nowuvedoneit: There is a book called “The Renegade History of the United States” I suggest you check it out. Milk was nothing more than a touchstone (and truthfully not a very good one). Milk was a way of letting the work know where we stood in the culture wars. Stonewall was about one thing and one thing only. Pride. I don’t mean the abstract “pride in who I am” I mean Pride came out of Stonewall.

    Finally the marriage bans are not being lifted because of politicians. Sure they like to rush in and take credit. Yet the reason why marriage bans are being lifted is because the tides have already turned. The majority of people are behind us and not the Christians. It wasn’t politicians who changed their minds. It was Queer as Folk, and knowing Queer Folk.

    Queer as Folk brought a lot of people out of the closet. It also changed a lot of Hetro minds on Queer culture. It was not some two bit politician who deserves the credit. Nor is it trash like Glee. Justin, Brian, and Ian Gallagher (Shameless US and UK) have changed the public face of Queer forever. They have reached more people, touched them in the heart. Had the decency and respect to treat us like real people and not like characters. Politicians jump in front of parades only after they have already started.

  • Richard Paul

    While I sympathize with this issue you can’t expect a large manufacturing company to stay in California. With it’s anti-business legislature, high taxes, and huge overhead cost no company in its right mind wants to stay in California. It would be suicide for the business.

  • Richard Paul

    Maybe Queety can start to find political candidates that are both pro-gay and pro-business and bring Cally back to the powerhouse it once was.

  • chakrakahn

    Interesting. I never have thought about investing in the markets, but I got one hell of a sales pitch a few weeks back for this. It’s going to be MASSIVE. I don’t think many people know yet just how big this thing is going to be. But thats another story for another day….

    What Texas has going for it is privatized water rights- Oil gazillionaire T Boone Pickens bought up nearly all the below ground water rights across the state. He would most likely be the provider for the facility which when built is going to need so much water, millions of gallons a month, if I’m not mistaken. . The terrible thing is that Texas is undergoing a soon-to-be-a-dustbowl-state drought that is not going to abate. This means that, should the facility come to Texas,aquifers are going to be sucked dry. Texas doesn’t have the infrastructure totally in place yet, but this might explain the..ahem..governor’s spend-a-thon on rarely used toll superhighways. I certainly hope that Tesla, a reputable company chooses elsewhere. Unfortunately, the states being considered are no better than Texas. Utah, NM, CO and AZ.

  • allegiance2none

    He looks like the love child of Davey Wavey and Scott Wolf. Who cares about where Teslas are made. Those cars go BOOM!

    • Stache99

      @allegiance2none: Their electric cars hon. There’s no BOOM.

  • yaletownman

    As a recovering southerner I think that this needs to be looked at from both perspectives. Indeed states like Texas have and still can be the largest barriers we face to full equality. That said, it’s important to remember that it’s the city populations verses rural populations that decide whether a state is progressive or regressive. Texas is still one of those states that has larger rural/suburban populations than urban ones. One thing that rural populations, especially in the south, face is the constant reminder that they are backward, ignorant, less than. The problem with this is that while it’s completely understandable to make that judgment it really only works to keep them there. Shame is usually combated with false pride and anger and in these cases that usually means that they just dig their feet in deeper because to be defeated is humiliating, I feel the answer to this is to inject a higher conscious into a place instead of always just combating it. (what we resist persists).

    What I feel like we need to do is everything we can to help Mr. Musk remain conscious and stay steadfast in his principles. States like Texas would benefit from a company who is progressive in these areas especially when they face a state political system that is not. Also, the entire tech industry is one of a progressive mindset and pulling people into that mindset as a plant in Texas would might bring a sense of pride to a group of people who are constantly ridiculed as being stupid, backward, etc. In others words, invite them to become one of the cool kids instead of constantly reminding them that they aren’t.

    California is a very expensive place to live thus very high wages are needed to live here. It also has a very well educated population which has driven up wages as well as the cost of living. If Mr. Musk really wants to help change the world like he has stated he will have to bring forth automobiles that the masses can afford. With a goal of setting his newest design to be sold at half the price of the current one he’s going to have to cut a lot of corners and manufacturing this car in a place where wages are much lower because the cost of living is a fraction of where he is currently located is a massive start. (Check housing costs in the south of San Francisco area, most people can’t even fathom paying those prices). Maybe this could all be working for a win-win all around and by changing a perspective and taking new actions on that perspective we can create some wonderful and actually help Texas to lift itself out of the dark ages. Just my thoughts.

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