Will Texas’ lack of state LGBT protections from discrimination (by an employer, landlord or shopkeeper) keep Amazon from picking the Lone Star State for its HQ2 location?
Dallas made it to the list of top 20 finalists for what’s being considered the biggest economic development prize ever.
The Washington Post reports that when recruiting Amazon, the Dallas team brought an unexpected guest to their meeting with the company: Reverend Dr. Neil Cazares-Thomas who is the Senior Pastor of Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ.
He said around 70 percent of his congregation identifies as gay, lesbian or transgender.
“People still need to hear that God loves them just the way they are,” Reverend Cazares-Thomas said during one of four sermons he gave on a Sunday in June.
On that day, he said he’ll be ministering to a total of more than 12-hundred people who will watch in person, along with people who watch online from around the world.
Reverend Dr. Cazares-Thomas could not confirm nor deny his presence in any meeting with Amazon; however, we asked him a hypothetical question about if he was to be in a meeting like that representing Dallas.
“If someone was to ask you how North Texas treats the LGBTQ community, what’s the answer to that?” we asked.
“I believe that living in Dallas, and coming from Los Angeles, and from Great Britain, that my family—I’m a gay man with a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter—that my family has been treated very well here,” Reverend Dr. Cazares-Thomas said, while sitting in his chapel several days later.
He said his clerical collar affords him some social protection, but from his congregation he hears about discrimination: from attacks on gay men in Dallas’ Cedar Springs neighborhood, to harassment and threats during the Bathroom Bill debate.
“And there were many transgender members of this congregation who would choose not to eat or to drink during the day in fear that they would need to use the bathroom,” Reverend Dr. Cazares-Thomas said. “And that grieves me.”
In addition, Texas does not have a state law that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination by an employer, landlord or shopkeeper.
“A lesbian or gay couple who gets married today, if they were to go to work tomorrow and put a picture of their wedding on their desk could be fired—just purely because they are lesbian or gay,” Reverend Dr. Cazares-Thomas said. “And then the very next day could lose their apartment or their home because the landlord decides they don’t want a lesbian or gay couple living on their property.”
That lack of state protection for (potential) future HQ2 employees could have Amazon strike Texas from the short list.
CEO Jeff Bezos has been a financial advocate for gay rights.
In 2012, he and his wife donated $2.5 million to support same-sex marriage in Washington.
So, Amazon’s HQ2 business investment could also make a statement about equal rights.
“And so in some ways they are driving this move to a more inclusive world, which is the role that Jesus took 2,000 years ago,” Reverend Dr. Cazares-Thomas said.
Amazon’s HQ2 will be a 5-billion dollar investment from that company, and is expected to provide 50,000 jobs.