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Major Companies Denounce Georgia’s Religious Refusal Legislation

by Emily Simeral February 26, 2016


Once again, business leaders have joined together to show their dismay for proposed religious refusal legislation that passed through the Georgia Senate this month.

Marc Benioff, CEO of San Francisco-based Salesforce, announced that the company would decrease its investments in Georgia following the passing of an anti-LGBT bill that would  allow for individuals to use religion as an excuse for discrimination.

“We’re looking squarely at what’s going on in Georgia with House Bill 757, which means that we have to reduce our investments in the state of Georgia based on what we’re seeing with the state government there...And I hope that they see the light the way that the state of Indiana did,” Benioff said in a conference call with analysts.

“Salesforce is leading by example and reminding the legislature what it seems to have forgotten, that all Americans, including LGBT people, should be able to live free from fear of discrimination,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs. “Today another Georgia business is sounding the alarm about a reckless and irresponsible bill that would create broad loopholes and put LGBT Georgians in the path of discrimination. Business and religious leaders alike have called out this disingenuous bill as an attempt to license discrimination. This shameful bill should be stopped in its tracks.”

Benioff and Salesforce join several Georgia-based high-profile businesses in opposition of the bill: AT&T, Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., The Home Depot Inc., SunTrust Banks Inc., and United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS). According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Salesforce employs several hundred people in Atlanta and Buckhead, Georgia, and decreasing its presence could have damaging affects on the state.

Last week, the Georgia Senate passed HB 757, which was amended in the Senate to include the language of SB 284, the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). The dangerous legislation goes far beyond protecting the right of free exercise of one’s religion. While falsely framed as prohibiting the state government from making funding or tax status decisions based on an organization’s views on marriage that are driven by religious belief, in reality it threatens to create a breakdown of state government services, opening the door to discrimination against same-sex couples, their families, and those who love them.Taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies could refuse to place children who are in desperate need of loving and caring homes with LGBT couples. State-funded homeless shelters could turn away unwed couples and their families. Government employees could refuse to file tax forms for same-sex couples or provide state benefits to single mothers.

In March of 2015, Salesforce reduced investment in Indiana because of outrage from employees and customers over its Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) fight. The state lost as much as $60 million in convention revenue alone because of the disastrous bill, according to a survey from Visit Indy.

Following the introduction of over 100 anti-LGBT bills throughout the U.S. in 2015, Salesforce, along with more than 100 technology industry leaders, joined an unprecedented statement to legislators calling for nationwide LGBT non-discrimination protections. A longtime ally of HRC, Salesforce also received a 95 on the 2016 Corporate Equality Index.

To learn more about the discriminatory religious refusal legislation launching across the country, visit www.hrc.org/2016legislature.





Emily Simeral
Emily Simeral

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