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Leaders of 75 national businesses urge state to scrap gay discrimination law

Mississippi’s Freedom of Conscience law and the widespread perception of it as discriminatory toward gays, lesbians and transgender people have brought an open letter from 75 leading CEOs and business leaders across the country urging state elected leaders to repeal the law that goes into effect July 1.

The letter includes the signatures of executives from PricewaterhouseCoopers, Capital One, Castlight Health, Inc., KMPG LLP, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Uber.

The letter calls on Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, and House Speaker Philip A. Gunn to repeal House Bill 1523. Bryant signed the bill earlier this month.

H.B. 1523 allows almost any individual or organization to use religion as a justification to discriminate against LGBT Mississippians in some of the most important aspects of their lives, including at work, at school, and in their communities, said the Human Rights Campaign, the a national organization that seeks to protect the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

“It is unfathomable that in 2016, Mississippi has passed a law explicitly allowing LGBT people to be denied service or discriminated against simply because of who they are and whom they love,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “That’s why, across Mississippi and the nation, business leaders are speaking out against this discriminatory legislation that harms their employees, harms consumers, and harms their businesses. But there’s still time for Mississippi lawmakers to do the right thing. We urge Gov. Bryant and state lawmakers to lead their state to a better future, leaving the politics of discrimination and prejudice firmly in the past. It’s time for them to listen, stand up for all Mississippians, and work quickly to repeal H.B. 1523.”

Bryant, Reeves, Gunn and other HB1523 supporters  say the bill is designed to prevent infringement on the religious freedoms of churches and faith-based organizations, circuit court clerks and businesses in the wake of last summer’s Supreme Court legalization of same-sex marriage.

In addition to the major corporations signing onto this letter calling for repeal, some of the state’s largest employers, including Nissan Group of North America, Tyson Food Inc., MGM Resorts International, and Toyota, have publicly voiced their opposition to the legislation — joiningnational corporations such as AT&T, IBM, and MassMutual. Bryant also rejected the call of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association (MMA) to veto the discriminatory measure.

Meanwhile, Salesforce CEOMarc Benioff has joined an effort to get more CEOs to speak publicly against the law, and top executives from Microsoft and IBM have asserted that the law is bad for business.

On Sunday, May 1, HRC Mississippi will join local advocates in a rally calling on Bryant, Reeves and Gunn to listen to repeal HB1523. The rally will culminate in a march from the Mississippi State Capitol to the Governor’s mansion.

The full letter and list of signatories is below:

Dear Governor Bryant, Lieutenant Governor Reeves & Speaker Gunn:

We write with concerns about legislation signed this week, HB 1523, which would allow individuals, religious organizations and private associations to use religion to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Mississippians in some of the most important aspects of their lives, including at work, at schools, in their family life and more. Put simply, HB 1523 is not a bill that reflects the values of our companies.

We are disappointed to see the legislature and governor’s office pass discriminatory legislation. The business community, by and large, has consistently communicated to lawmakers at every level that such laws are bad for our employees and bad for business. This is not a direction in which states move when they are seeking to provide successful, thriving hubs for business and economic development. We believe that HB 1523 will make it far more challenging for businesses across the state to recruit and retain the nation’s best and brightest workers and attract the most talented students from across the country. It will also diminish the state’s draw as a destination for tourism, new businesses, and economic activity.

Discrimination is wrong, and we believe it has no place in Mississippi or anywhere in our country. As companies that pride ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming to all, we strongly urge you to repeal this bill.

Sincerely,

Laura Alber, President and Chief Executive Officer, Williams-Sonoma, Inc.

Karen Appleton, Senior Vice President, Box

Brandee Barker, Cofounder and Partner, Pramana Collective

Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO, Salesforce

Chip Bergh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Levi Strauss and Co.

Michael Birch, Founder, The Battery

Lisa Bisaccia, EVP and Chief HR Officer, CVS Health

Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, co-CEOs, Warby Parker

Steven Boal, CEO, Quotient

Craig Bromley, President, John Hancock Financial

Wes Bush, Chairman, CEO and President of Northrop Grumman

Lloyd Carney, CEO, Brocade Communications Systems, Inc.

Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Founder and CEO, Joyus

Amy Chang, CEO, Accompany

Giovanni Colella, CEO, Castlight Health, Inc.

Alex Constantinople, CEO, The OutCast Agency

Bracken P. Darrell, CEO, Logitech

Chad Dickerson, CEO, Etsy

Alex Dimitrief, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, GE

Lynne Doughtie, Chairman and CEO, KPMG LLP

Sandy Douglas, Executive Vice President and President, Coca-Cola North America, The Coca-Cola Company

Jonathan Eppers, CEO, RadPad

Amy Erret, Founder and CEO, Madison-Reed

Jared Fliesler, General Partner, Matrix Partners

Jennifer Fonstad, Cofounder and Managing Partner, Aspect Ventures

Joe Gebbia, Cofounder and CPO, Airbnb

Jason Goldberg, Founder, Pepo

Peter T. Grauer, Chairman, Bloomberg L.P.

Julia Hartz, Cofounder and President, Eventbrite

David Hassell, CEO, 15Five

Robert Hohman, Founder and CEO, Glassdoor

Lane S. Hopkins, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Capital One Financial Corporation

Drew Houston, CEO, Dropbox

Laurene Powell Jobs, Founder and Chair, Emerson Collective

Steve Joyce, President and Chief Executive Officer, Choice Hotels International, Inc.

Travis Kalanick, CEO, Uber

David Karp, Founder and CEO, Tumblr

Travis Katz, CEO, Gogobot

Brian Krzanich, CEO, Intel

Sarah Leary, Cofounder, Nextdoor

Aileen Lee, Founder and Managing Partner, Cowboy Ventures

Max Levchin, CEO, Affirm, Inc.

Aaron Levie, CEO, Box

Dion Lim, CEO, NextLesson

Andrew N. Liveris, CEO and Chairman of the Board, The Dow Chemical Company

Joe Lonsdale, General Partner, 8VC

Tom Mangas, CEO, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide

Melody McCloskey, Founder, StyleSeat

Ryan McDonough, CFO, Accompany

Bob Moritz, US Chairman and Senior Partner, PwC

Dr. Nathan Myhrvold, Founder and CEO, Intellectual Ventures

Christopher J. Nassetta, President & Chief Executive Officer, Hilton Worldwide

Lorrie Norrington, Operating Partner, Lead Edge Capital

Bob Page, Chairman and CEO, Replacements, Ltd.

Sunil Paul, Founding Partner, Spring Ventures

Mark Pincus, Founder and Executive Chairman, Zynga

Michelle Peluso, CEO, Gilt

Walter Robb, Co-CEO, Whole Foods Market

Dan Rosensweig, CEO, Chegg Inc.

Kevin Ryan, Founder and Chairman, AlleyCorp

Gary Shapiro, President and CEO, Consumer Technology Association

Tom Sheahan, CEO, Red Oxygen

Ben Stevenson, Data Engineer, Accompany

Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO, Yelp

Christopher J. Swift, Chairman and CEO, The Hartford

Brian Tippens, Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

David Tisch, Managing Partner, BoxGroup

Nirav Tolia, Cofounder and CEO, Nextdoor

Robb Webb, Chief Human Resources Officer, Hyatt Hotels Corporation

Tony West, EVP Government Affairs, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, PepsiCo

Anne Wojcicki, CEO, 23andMe

Robert Wolfe, CEO, CrowdRise

Emanuel Seth Yekutiel, CEO, ESY Strategies

John Zimmer, Cofounder and President, Lyft

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9 comments

  1. Unfortunately, our “leaders” care more about pandering to fear than doing anything to move our state off the bottom. We saw this with the state flag and we are seeing it with this law.

  2. I urge the Governor and legislature to resist any pressure to change this law. I believe a majority of people are for it.
    Thank you for publishing this list, I wont be supporting any of them. Pressure works both ways. They have more to lose. MONEY.

    • Joe, it seems quite clear by the outpouring of opinion from all corners of our country that the majority of people are against this bill. if the majority of the people of Mississippi are for it, I suspect the state will remain economically last for years to come. I don’t think that will bother many on the religious right. Similarly, ISIS does not seem to care much about negative world opinions against their actions.

  3. I am glad that they took the time and effort to list all the names of companies and the leaders of them as now I know which ones to NOT support or have any dealings with. Thanks to our governor for taking a stand against this you will be rewarded.

  4. We have changed the meaning of marriage in our country and we are more in debt than we have ever been. WAKE UP

  5. Rep. J. Andrew Gipson (R. Braxton) with Jones Walker in Jackson was a primary author and moving force behind the bill. Wonder how his colleagues at Jones Walker are feeling about this?

  6. Rick in Cincinnati

    I read a few responses from people in Mississippi and I’m shocked at how hateful and ignorant they are. Some of the biggest companies are in their state selling their products over the world and you people don’t get that the gays will not be the only ones not buying the products of these companies. Of course it’s your state, you can do what you want.

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