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The politics of the Texas GOP leadership’s immediate and no doubt well-planned responses to the court’s validation of same sex marriage echoed the responses by much of the southern wing of their party, and they provided a glimpse of things yet to come in Texas once national politics stabilize after the November elections. But these responses, and their underlying approach to the problem, are not without their share of difficulties.
The recent resistance of GOP-led state governments in Mississippi and North Carolina to local efforts to prevent discrimination against gay and lesbian residents has been met by a very public backlash from corporate actors in sectors ranging from professional sports leagues and banks to tech giants and manufacturers. Their repudiation has highlighted the increasingly familiar friction within the GOP between its socially conservative voting base and the business interests that in many cases play an outsized role in the party’s donor class.
The governors of these and other states have discovered that businesses looking to recruit and retain educated, cosmopolitan employees; to sell their products and services to the broadest possible base of customers, especially young ones; and to avoid pressure from gay and lesbian civil rights groups don’t want to be associated with policies perceived as being discriminatory against the LGBT community. Bigotry is bad for business. The Texas Association of Business has been a loud warning voice on this front, underlining the economic — rather than the ideological — nature of these concerns for many otherwise solidly Republican interests in the state.
This resistance notwithstanding, it is all but certain that the lieutenant governor, his allies and their fellow travelers in the Legislature will resume efforts to pass “religious protection” measures when the next legislative session cranks. These efforts will pose challenges to Republican leaders attempting to keep the disparate elements that make up their party within the GOP tent — especially Governor Abbott.