Yesterday, Apple, the National Football League (NFL), and the Atlanta Braves, Falcons, and Hawks joined a growing list of major corporations, business leaders, and sports teams speaking out against H.B. 757 – a legislative assault by Georgia lawmakers on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people sent to the desk of Governor Nathan Deal.
Urging Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the discriminatory measure, Apple released a statement, saying: “Apple is proud to support jobs for 44,000 people all across Georgia. Our stores and our company are open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. We urge Governor Nathan Deal to veto the discriminatory legislation headed to his desk and send a clear message that Georgia’s future is one of inclusion, diversity and continued prosperity.”
The NFL’s statement raised concerns about Georgia potentially losing the opportunity to host a super bowl if the legislation is signed into law, and the Atlanta Braves, Falcons, and Hawks all responded with statements condemning the legislation.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America’s largest LGBT civil rights organisation, praised the growing chorus of voices urging Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the bill, which includes an Indiana-style Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). If signed into law, the legislation would have severe consequences not just for LGBT Georgians, but the entire state.
“The growing outrage from the business community makes clear that this legislative assault by Georgia lawmakers on LGBT people is unacceptable, bad for business, and must be stopped,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “As the consequences of Indiana’s anti-LGBT law continue to mount, these corporations and business leaders know that H.B. 757 would be disastrous for the Georgia economy and business climate. Governor Deal must veto the bill before it inflicts severe damage on the state.”
Understanding the tremendous consequences it would have, numerous executives from the business community have now spoken out against the bill, including from: Apple, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks, Dell, Dow Chemical Company, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Hilton, Intel, Intercontinental Hotels, Live Nation Entertainment, Marriott, MailChimp, Metro Atlanta Chamber, Microsoft, NFL, Paypal, Salesforce, Square, Turner, Twitter, Unilever, Virgin, Yelp, and others.
Provisions included in the bill could undermine local non-discrimination ordinances that protect LGBT people, permit hospitals to refuse to provide medically necessary care, or allow a taxpayer-funded service provider to discriminate by denying a job because of the applicant’s religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
The bill includes a so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA) provision, as well as retains and broadens discriminatory provisions that give explicit cover to taxpayer-funded religious organizations choosing to discriminate. While falsely framed as prohibiting the state government from making funding or tax status decisions based on an organisation’s religious views, in reality it opens the door to discrimination in social services and employment against a wide range of Georgians. The RFRA and other provisions could result in a range of harms. Taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies could refuse to place children in desperate need of loving and caring homes with LGBT couples. Homeless shelters could turn away unwed couples and their families. Food pantries could turn away people of other faiths or even engage in race discrimination. Drug counselling centres could refuse to hire a qualified LGBT therapist.
In reality, no religious organisation or clergy is required to sanction or perform same-sex marriage under any federal or state law.
Since H.B. 757 passed the Senate, countless businesses as well as major employers have spoken out against the bill. HRC and Georgia Unites delivered more than 75,000 email petitions to Gov. Deal urging him to veto the bill.
Georgia is among a majority of states that lack explicit LGBT non-discrimination protections.
Working to stop such reckless and discriminatory legislation, HRC is proud to be fighting alongside local advocates in Georgia Unites Against Discrimination – a joint project of HRC and Georgia Equality dedicated to protecting LGBT Georgians from discrimination and ensuring that individuals and businesses aren’t able to use religious beliefs as an excuse to harm others.
Various statements from businesses speaking out against H.B. 757 can be found here: storify.com/HRC/business-rally-against-anti-lgbt-in-georgia