Big Oil funds anti-trans lawmakers while flying rainbow flag

Chevron, BP, and others bankroll sponsors of anti-trans bills while using LBGTQ pride to buy social license.

Drew Springer is a notorious for his anti-transgender policies. After the former Texas state representative won a seat in the state Senate last year, he sponsored two bills seeking to ban transgender public school students from playing on sports teams corresponding with their gender identity. The Republican lawmaker is also sponsoring a bill to designate gender-affirming healthcare as child abuse. He ranks second on Equality Texas’s list of 10 Worst Texas House Members on LGBT Issues.

The oil and gas industry helped give Springer the power he has today. The newly-minted state Senator received a combined $124,500 in oil and gas campaign contributions in 2020, according to Follow the Money. Oil and gas is the top industry contributor to Springer’s political career overall. And many of his contributions are from oil companies that have recently launched public relations campaigns in celebration of Pride month.

Chevron has contributed a cumulative $3,000 to Springer, according to Follow the Money. On June 1, the company sent out a tweet about its P.R.I.D.E. Employee Network. The acronym stands for “Promote Respect, Inclusion, & Dignity for Everyone.”

BP, which redesigned its Twitter avatar with a rainbow flag for Pride month, has also contributed $1,500 to Springer. The company put out a since-deleted tweet on June 2 celebrating the company as “a business where all our employees have the freedom to bring their best and true selves to work,” and promising “more content throughout the month to show our support for the community.” (BP also tweeted in celebration of Pansexuality Visibility Day on May 24).

Chevron and BP’s contributions to Springer aren’t huge. But they are data-points in a much larger trend. Republican state lawmakers are pushing a record number of bills to restrict transgender bills this year, PBS Newshour reported on Sunday. Some of them are becoming law. And in many cases, Big Oil companies like Chevron and BP are bankrolling those anti-trans bills’ sponsors, while using LBGTQ pride as a marketing tactic to maintain their social license to operate.

These bills have real consequences for LBGTQ youth whether they become law or not. More than 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary respondents to a 2020 Trevor Project survey said they attempted suicide in 2019. That same survey saw 85 percent of young LGBTQ people reporting a negative impact on their well-being from anti-trans policies.

Big Oil companies don’t fund the lawmakers behind these bills because they want trans people to suffer. They do it because they want to kill climate policies—and lawmakers who oppose climate policies are often transphobic. In these cases, pride-touting oil companies are faced with a choice: they can either stop funding lawmakers whose policies harm LGBTQ kids, or accept that LGBTQ kids may suffer for the sake of their own profits.

Here are just a few instances where those companies chose the latter.

Lawmaker behind La. trans sports ban gets $12.7K from BP, Chevron, and Phillips 66

Late last month, the Louisiana state Legislature passed a bill barring transgender girls from playing on girls' sports teams. Though the state’s Democratic governor is expected to veto the bill, it will likely become law anyway, because it passed with veto-proof majorities.

(If you’d like to learn more about how laws like these harm both trans and cis children, I recommend this NBC piece featuring interviews with doctors who care for transgender kids, or this Scientific American piece).

All this is happening because of Republican state Senator Beth Mizell, who introduced the bill back in February. And Mizell is in office in part because of several Big Oil companies, which are currently touting their support for the LBGTQ community.

The oil and gas industry is Mizell’s third-largest industry contributor overall. Chevron is Mizell’s top funder from that category, having given Mizell a combined $6,500 over her two campaigns, according to Follow the Money.

Mizell’s second-largest oil and gas funder is Phillips 66, which has been also been Pride-tweeting lately about the origins of the rainbow flag. The gas company has given Mizell a combined $3,501.

Her fourth-biggest industry funder is BP, which has given $2,700 despite its rainbow logo.

Duke Energy gives $62.7K to lawmakers behind extreme anti-trans bill

North Carolina state Senators Ralph Hise, Norman Sanderson, and Warren Daniel were the sponsors of Senate Bill 514—one of the most frightening pieces of anti-trans legislation introduced in recent memory.

If it had passed, the so-called “Youth Health Protection Act” would have made it “illegal for doctors to provide health care to teenagers that helps them transition … [and forced] school employees to out teenagers to their guardians,” The News & Observer reported. It also would have protected the practice of “conversion therapy,” which attempts to force queer kids into being straight and/or cis.

The bill didn’t pass, but it set the stage for the influx of anti-trans bills we’re seeing today. The sponsors are all heavily backed by Duke Energy, an electric power and gas company which loudly touts itself as pro-LGBTQ, as Popular Information pointed out in April:

Duke Energy, in a company blog post, celebrates National Pride Month and touts the company's "commitment to diversity and inclusion." It highlights the story of an employee who says the company's "position on LGBTQ issues" convinced him to accept a full-time position. "Duke Energy talks the talk and walks the walk," he says. 

In a January 2021 press release, Duke Energy touts that it provides "equal health coverage for transgender individuals." The release says that the company's 500 member "LGBTQ Equality employee resource group" is "supported by the company’s senior leadership."

Duke Energy has also been celebrating Pride month on Twitter:

Duke Energy has directly contributed a combined $62,700 to the sponsors of Senate Bill 514: $28,300 to Hise, $7,000 to Sanderson, and $27,400 to Daniel, according to Follow the Money.

Duke Energy is the fourth-largest donor to Hise’s political career; Sanderson’s sixth-largest donor; Daniel’s third-largest donor.

Oil and gas is top donor to author of Texas bill punishing doctors who provide gender-affirming care is oil and gas industry favorite

Last month, the Texas Senate passed SB 1311, a bill to revoke the medical license of any doctor who prescribes hormone therapy or puberty suppression treatment for transgender youth.

The bill’s author is Republican Bob Hall. Oil and gas is his top industry contributor, with representatives having given $259,801 over the course of his career, according to Follow the Money.

Hall’s biggest oil and gas donors are individual oil moguls in the region, like fracking billionaire Farris Wilks. But the list also includes Pride-touting companies Phillips 66 ($2,501) and Chevron ($1,000), which also gave in similar numbers to many of the lawmakers who voted to pass the anti-trans bill.

The bottom line: trans lives are a casualty of pro-oil policies

Again, it’s unlikely oil and gas companies make donations to anti-trans lawmakers with the explicit intent of supporting anti-trans policies. It’s simply that oil companies consider pro-development, anti-climate policies to be far more important. So if LGBTQ youth have to suffer as a casualty, well, that’s a sacrifice they’re willing to make—especially since they can just post a rainbow flag to Twitter, and no one will be the wiser.


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