Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organisation, announced that executives from GE, the Dow Chemical Company, PepsiCo, Hewlett Packard Enterprises, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Choice Hotels International, Inc., Levi Strauss & Co., and Whole Foods Market have signed onto an open letter addressed to Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, and House Speaker Philip A. Gunn urging state lawmakers to repeal HB 1523 — a discriminatory measure signed into law yesterday despite outcry from the business community, fair-minded Mississippians, and LGBT equality advocates.
HB 1523, or 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 lawmakers to reverse course and do the right thing. We urge Governor Bryant and state lawmakers to lead Mississippi toward a brighter future and leave 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.”
The full letter can be found here and below.
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, publicly voiced their opposition to the appalling legislation — joining national corporations such as AT&T, IBM, Levi Strauss & Co, MassMutual, General Electric, and Hyatt. 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.
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 organizations 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.
Chip Bergh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Levi Strauss & Co.
Alex Dimitrief, Senior Vice President & General Counsel, GE
Robb Webb, Chief Human Resources Officer, Hyatt Hotels Corporation
Steve Joyce, President and Chief Executive Officer, Choice Hotels International, Inc.
Andrew N. Liveris, CEO and Chairman of the Board, The Dow Chemical Company
Walter Robb, Co-CEO, Whole Foods Market
Brian Tippens, Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Tony West, EVP Government Affairs, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary, PepsiCo