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LGBT advocates challenge Amazon HQ2 finalists including Austin, Dallas

FILE - In this April 27, 2017 file photo, construction continues on three large, glass-covered domes as part of an expansion of the Amazon.com campus in downtown Seattle. Amazon said Thursday, Sept. 7, that it will spend more than $5 billion to build another headquarters in North America to house as many as 50,000 employees. It plans to stay in its sprawling Seattle headquarters and the new space will be "a full equal" of its current home, said founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Thursday the No Gay? No Way! campaign launched pushing Amazon to eliminate nine states from their list of headquarters finalists. They say the company shouldn't put down roots in states that allow discrimination against the LGBT community, including Texas.

It's common knowledge you can't discriminate against someone in the workplace for factors including age, sex, race or religion, but in Texas sexual orientation and gender identity aren't protected. The No Gay? No Way! campaign is encouraging Amazon to cut states like Texas from their list.

Circling Amazon's Seattle headquarters you might see a moving billboard that says, "Hey Alexa, why would Amazon even consider HQ2 in a state that discriminates against LGBT people?" The billboard is funded by the LGBT advocates who make up the No Gay? No Way! campaign.

"Our goal in the campaign is to help encourage them to make the right choice," says Conor Gaughan, campaign director. CBS Austin spoke with Gaughan over Facetime. He says Amazon building HQ2 in a state that lacks discrimination protections for everyone contradicts the company's values.

"If they really want to be the LGBT champion that they've already said that they are, they need to prove it. This is the time to step up and do it," Gaughan says.

Chuck Smith, CEO at Equality Texas says where the state is lacking the finalist cities are not. In Austin and Dallas it's illegal to discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

"Everyone deserves the ability to earn a living and have a job based on their skills and the merit of the works that they're able to do. People should not be fired because they're LGBTQ," Smith says.

However, city ordinances hardly compare to state law when it comes to protections. A city can issue a fine to a discriminating business up to $500 but it can't help someone get their job back. Smith thinks the campaign may have things backwards.

"Were Amazon to come to Austin or Dallas, I think that they bring with them the political power and political heft to pressure the Texas legislature to make it against the law on a statewide basis," Smith says.

Amazon did not have a comment on the No Gay? No Way! campaign. However, the company has said in the past they do not tolerate discrimination of any kind, support nondiscrimination legislation and whichever city they pick for their new headquarters must be the right culture fit.

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