After ‘Religious Freedom’ Becomes Law in Indiana, Businesses Vote With Their Dollars
On Thursday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, effectively allowing businesses to refuse to serve gay customers. In the days since, some companies have responded by restricting or terminating their investments in Indiana.
(Photo Credit: torbakhopper/Flickr)
Days before Angie’s List was due to break ground on a $40 million campus expansion in Indianapolis, CEO Bill Oesterle announced that building would halt until further notice.
“Angie’s List is open to all and discriminates against none and we are hugely disappointed in what this bill represents,” Oesterle said.
The Indianapolis Star reported that the project was expected to create 1,000 jobs and “help revitalize a struggling Eastside neighborhood.”
Tech Companies Chief Among Protesters
Angie’s List might represent the largest single investment (so far) that Indiana stands to lose over the RFRA, but it’s far from the only source of revenue that will disappear.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced on Twitter that his company would “dramatically reduce” their investment in Indiana and would cancel “all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination.”
Other tech CEOs followed suit. Yelp’s chief executive Jeremy Stoppelman said his company would not increase investments in any state that created similar legislation.
“It is unconscionable to imagine that Yelp would create, maintain, or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large,” he wrote in an open letter.
“Discrimination Is Bad for Business”
Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted his disappointment with the law, and later followed up with an op-ed in The Washington Post, noting that Indiana’s is only the most visible example of discriminatory legislation, and that it’s in business leaders’ best interests not to support these laws:
“America’s business community recognized a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business. At Apple, we are in business to empower and enrich our customers’ lives. We strive to do business in a way that is just and fair. That’s why, on behalf of Apple, I’m standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation — wherever it emerges. I’m writing in the hopes that many more will join this movement. From North Carolina to Nevada, these bills under consideration truly will hurt jobs, growth and the economic vibrancy of parts of the country where a 21st-century economy was once welcomed with open arms.”
Tech companies weren’t the only organizations protesting. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced that the city would prohibit the use of city funds for city employees to travel to Indiana. Ahead of the Final Four, NCAA President Mark Emmert released a statement saying that the association was
“deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events. We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees.”
Of course, some cynics might see such statements as nothing more than good PR for businesses protecting their interests, but even if that’s the case, it’s still a win for equality. Business leaders recognize that the tide has turned in America with respect to rights for gay people, and that companies have to support protecting them — or suffer the financial consequences.
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