Human Rights Maverick
All it took was one email invitation to prompt entrepreneur Mark Cuban, one of the stars of Shark Tank, to join a new campaign to combat LGBT discrimination in Texas. “It was a no-brainer,” Cuban, a Dallas billionaire who owns the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, tells CultureMap.
The campaign, Texas Wins, says it will strive to ensure LGBT Texans, and all other residents of the Lone Star State, are protected from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.
Texas Wins is emerging as a tug-of-war continues over LGBT rights. Some state lawmakers are pushing two proposed constitutional amendments that they say would guarantee religious freedoms but that critics say essentially would establish a “license to discriminate” against LGBT employees and consumers. Texas law does not prohibit an employee from being fired for his or her sexual orientation.
Cuban says it makes business sense to halt workplace discrimination. “When you can ignore the outside [influences], you get to choose from the smartest [job] candidates that can offer the most value. It’s smart business to pick the best candidate,” Cuban says via email. Cuban declines to say whether he’s donating money to the Texas Wins campaign.
On Wednesday, organizers kicked off Texas Wins, which promises to spread its nondiscrimination message through communication initiatives, advertising, business outreach, opposition research and grassroots organizing.
Mark McKinnon of Austin, a former political adviser for former President George W. Bush, is chairman of Texas Wins. Austin-based backers of the campaign include Equality Texas, the Texas Freedom Network and the Texas Research Institute. Others include the ACLU of Texas, Athlete Ally, Faith in Public Life, and the Resource Center of Dallas.
“I’m glad to see Texas Wins taking up the charge here and making a pro-business case to end discrimination in the Lone Star State,” Cuban says in a Texas Wins news release. “I have little tolerance for discrimination in my businesses, nor do a majority of Fortune 500 companies. Texas is a beacon for business and should follow corporate America’s lead on this one.”
Christina Canales Gorczynski, director of the Texas Wins effort, says the invite to Cuban came through Athlete Ally, which works to end homophobia and transphobia in sports. Cuban is a member of the nonprofit group’s advisory board.
“Having a business titan like Cuban out there making the corporate case to end workplace discrimination is extremely helpful,” Gorczynski tells CultureMap.