Today, the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), civil rights organisation announced that more than 60 leading CEOS and business leaders, including executives from Bloomberg LP, CVS Health, Dropbox, Hilton Worldwide and Salesforce have signed onto an open letter calling on Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, and House Speaker Philip A. Gunn to repeal HB 1523. HB 1523, the so-called “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act,” allows almost any individual or organisation 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.
“It is unfathomable that in 2016, Mississippi has passed a law that explicitly allows 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 reverse course and do the right thing. We urge Governor 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 HB 1523.”
Earlier this week, Mississippi State Rep. Jay Hughes and members of the Mississippi House of Representatives announced an effort to suspend regular House rules in order to introduce the “Mississippi Economic and Tourism Recovery Act” — a bill that would overturn HB 1523. Two-thirds of House members must vote in favour of suspending the rules to allow a vote on the proposed legislation to repeal HB 1523.
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 appalling legislation — joining national corporations such as AT&T, IBM, and MassMutual. Gov. Bryant also ignored the call of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association (MMA) to veto the discriminatory measure. Salesforce CEO Marc 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.
Additionally, rocker Bryan Adams cancelled a concert scheduled for later this week in Biloxi, MS, and nearly 100 prominent writers from the state, including John Grisham and Kathryn Stockett, signed a letter protesting the discriminatory law. ABC’s “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts, who is featured as the welcoming face of the Hospitality State’s official tourism guide, also decried the legislation saying, “hurts my soul to think of anyone not feeling welcome.” Actress Sharon Stone has also cancelled a film shoot in Mississippi because of the law, and the New York Mississippi Society cancelled their 37th Mississippi Picnic in Central Park.
Under this new law, religion could be used by almost any individual or organisation to justify discrimination against LGBT people, single mothers, unwed couples, and others. Tax-payer funded faith-based organisations could: refuse to recognise the marriages of same-sex couples for provision of critical services including emergency shelter; deny children in need of loving homes placement with LGBT families including the child’s own family member; and refuse to sell or rent a for-profit home to an LGBT person — even if the organisation receives government funding. It would also give foster families the freedom to subject an LGBTQ child to the dangerous practice of “conversion therapy,” and subject a pregnant unwed girl to abuse, without fear of government intervention or license suspension. It would even allow individuals to refuse to carry out the terms of a state contract for the provision of counselling services to all eligible individuals, including veterans, based on the counsellor’s beliefs about LGBT people or single mothers.
Furthermore, schools, employers, and service providers could refuse transgender people access to appropriate sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity — all in direct conflict with the U.S. Department of Justice’s enforcement of federal law. HB 1523 even legalises Kim Davis-style discrimination by allowing government employees to abdicate their duties and refuse to license or solemnise marriages for LGBT people.
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.
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
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
Alex Constantinople, CEO, The OutCast Agency
Bracken P. Darrell, CEO, Logitech
Chad Dickerson, CEO, Etsy
Alex Dimitrief, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, GE
Sandy Douglas, Executive Vice President and President, Coca-Cola North America, The Coca-Cola Company
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
Drew Houston, CEO, Dropbox
Laurene Powell Jobs, Founder and Chair, Emerson Collective
Steve Joyce, President and Chief Executive Officer, Choice Hotels International, Inc.
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
Melody McCloskey, Founder, StyleSeat
Ryan McDonough, CFO, Accompany
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
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