The world’s first out and only known transgender billionaire threatened to pull her vast fortune from Tennessee if lawmakers pass transphobic legislation currently under consideration.
Jennifer Pritzker, a decorated military veteran and philanthropist whose estimated worth hovers around $2 billion, told lawmakers they are creating a hostile environment for her family and their vast wealth with their actions. In a statement, she threatened to pull both her funds and family from the state if Tennessee joins other Republican-dominated legislatures and passes the transphobic bills in a thinly-veiled attempt to appeal to their base of white conservative voters.
“As a transgender woman, these unnecessary and hurtful laws are personal to me,” the billionaire Pritzker wrote in an open statement to lawmakers. “But as a businesswoman, my larger concern is the impact they will have on Tennessee’s reputation and, ultimately, economic well being, as businesses and tourists turn elsewhere. No state benefits from the perception that it is an intolerant and unwelcome place for people of different backgrounds, and it alarms me gravely to see this state vying for the title of least inclusive in the nation.”
Lawmakers in the state’s House recently passed HB 1233, which is part of what the Human Rights Campaign called a “Slate of Hate” bills currently making their way through the Tennessee House and Senate. The Senate has their own version of the bill, SB 1367.
“Instead of focusing on addressing the serious challenges that affect the everyday lives of Tennesseans including healthcare, infrastructure, and a pandemic that requires decisive action from its state leaders, the legislature is focused on targeting transgender people and advancing their ‘Slate of Hate,’” Melodía Gutiérrez, associate regional campaign director for HRC, said in a statement.
Following devastating losses and a rebuke of their policies in the recent general election, desperate Republicans have pivoted to passing transphobic legislation at a state level in an attempt to fire up a far right base. The transphobic bills barring trans youth from playing sports according to their identity and that would make it illegal for doctors to provide science-based, medically appropriate care to their patients have become popular with key Republican constituencies. Lawmakers in Florida recently passed a bill that would allow for genital inspections of girls.
Pritzker is one of the famed Pritzker clan, which created the Hyatt hotel chains as well as other industrial firms that made all the family incredibly wealthy.
Before embarking on her business career, Pritzker served in the 82nd Airborne of the U.S. Army and retired as a lieutenant colonel. Her philanthropic efforts include funding multiple efforts to preserve U.S. military history, honoring the citizen solider, and endowing the Pritzker Military Museum in Chicago, Illinois, as well as a future Cold War Veterans Memorial in Wisconsin. She used a $1.35 million grant to the University of California, Santa Barbara, to study transgender service in the military, and police and fire departments, and a $2 million donation to endow an academic chair of the transgender studies department at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, with Aaron Devor as the inaugural chair.
While Pritzker made clear she loves the state of Tennessee, she also drew a line in the sand with legislators over their hateful legislative actions.
“If the legislature insists on embracing division and exclusion, we may have little choice but to pull our business out, harming workers and their families the most,” she concluded in her letter. “I implore this state’s political leaders to embrace unity, and the economic interests of all Tennesseans.”