In 2014, Toyota told the world that it was ditching its longtime home in California and relocating its headquarters to Plano, Texas. The news was undoubtedly alarming to some, especially Toyota’s LGBT employees, wary of their rights in the conservative Lone Star State.
Toyota promised that it would maintain its longstanding LGBT-inclusive employment policies after the move. And as an added bonus, the city of Plano passed an LGBT non-discrimination ordinance, which helped to ease some concerns.
The timing of the new HQ’s opening, however, has been unfortunate. The ribbons on Toyota’s new facility were cut last week, just days after the Texas Supreme Court decided that marriage equality doesn’t mean same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights as their straight peers.
So, what now?
LGBT activists have limited room to maneuver. In theory, it would be possible to push the issue into federal court, which could lead to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that clarifies that marriage rights must be applied equally to straight and gay couples. Then again, with the Court’s current composition, there’s no telling what kind of ruling might be handed down–and the last thing you’d want is a decision unfavorable to equality, one like Plessy v. Ferguson that could wreak havoc on LGBT lives for decades.
Toyota has indicated no change in its benefits policies for same-sex married couples, and given the potential public backlash, there’s little likelihood that it will. However, the Texas ruling–which focused on government employees but discussed marriage rights as a whole–could encourage other companies in Texas and elsewhere to scale back their benefits for LGBT couples.
Stay vigilant, and stay tuned.