Saturday, December 16, 2017

Uber and Lyft Call “Sex” Amendment Disappointing, Unnecessary

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a response from Lyft.

Five days after a controversial amendment defining “sex” as “the physical condition of being male or female” was added to a statewide ride-hailing bill, representatives from Uber and Lyft called the addition disappointing and unnecessary — though both companies stopped short of saying they’d withdraw their support.  

“We are disappointed that this unnecessary amendment was added to legislation that should be focused on adopting a consistent statewide framework for ridesharing,” Uber spokesman Travis Considine said. “Uber’s comprehensive national nondiscrimination policy will not change.” 

“The adopted amendment is unnecessary, as Lyft’s strong nondiscrimination policy remains in effect no matter what local or state statutes exist,” Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Harrison said.   

Neither Considine nor Harrison said their respective companies would pull back support of the bill over the amendment, which would define “sex” as the “physical condition of being male or female.” Considine said Uber’s existing nondiscrimination policy won’t change — it prohibits “discrimination against riders or drivers based on race, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, sex, marital status, gender identity and age, among other things.” 

Harrison said that “discrimination against passengers or drivers on the basis of race, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, physical or mental disability, medical condition, marital status, age, or sexual orientation is not allowed on the Lyft platform.” 

House Bill 100, which passed out of the House on Thursday, would establish a statewide framework to regulate ride-hailing companies and undo local rules that the two companies have argued are overly burdensome for their business models. 

The “sex” amendment by state Reps. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, and Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park — which came amid a legislative session where some GOP lawmakers are already trying to legislate which bathrooms transgender Texans can use — passed on a 90-52 vote Wednesday after HB 100’s author, Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, said he viewed it as “further defining something that’s already defined.” 

Tinderholt declined to comment on Uber and Lyft’s position on the amendment.  

Paddie previously told The Texas Tribune he didn’t think the amendment would affect transgender people and that, “at the end of the day, certainly there was no intent for it to be discriminatory in any way or target any group of people, so it’s unfortunate that perception was created.”  

State Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, who pulled his name as a co-author of the bill following the addition of Tinderholt’s amendment, said following passage of the House bill, spokespeople for both Uber and Lyft reached out to him to emphasize their nondiscrimination policies. But Bernal said that’s not enough. 

“I think it’s a mistake,” Bernal said on any ride-hailing company not making a public statement. “You can win the game and not like the way that you won, and there’s nothing wrong with letting people know that you have those feelings.” 

The bill now heads to a Senate committee for consideration.

Disclosure:  Uber and Lyft have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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