It’s hard to believe, after how far the gay rights movement has come, that we’re still doing this. But here we are.
Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has signed into law a bill that allows private businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian consumers, according to CNN. The “Restoration of Religious Freedom Act” is meant to allow businesses and corporations to cite “religious beliefs” as a defense, should they be sued by a private party for discrimination.
This of course means that Gov. Pence and the state of Indiana are prioritizing the religious beliefs of a company or corporation (after all, corporations are people!) over the basic human rights of a gay person.
Right on queue, tech industry titans have swooped in to decry the move, led by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.
Benioff tweeted yesterday that Salesforce would be canceling all programs that require customers or employees to travel to Indiana. Currently, Salesforce employs around 3,000 people in Indiana and holds conferences in the state that see upwards of 8,000 attendees, the removal of which will undoubtedly have an impact on Indiana’s economy.
In an interview with Re/code, Benioff said this:
We’ve made significant investments in Indiana. We run major marketing events and conferences there. We’re a major source of income and revenue to the state of Indiana, but we simply cannot support this kind of legislation.
But Benioff was just the beginning.
Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman voiced his opinion in an open letter posted to the Yelp! blog. In it, he says that “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.”
Serial entrepreneur, PayPal founder and Yelp investor Max Levchin also blasted the bill on social media.
This isn’t the first time that this type of legislation has gone through state governments, nor will it be the last. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a similar bill last year, but the same fate has not played out in Indiana, where Governor Mike Pence is said to be considering a presidential bid for the 2016 election. Meanwhile, other states (like Arkansas) are lining up to enact similar laws.
The tech world has long been a proponent of the gay rights movement, from its infancy in San Francisco, where both gay rights and Silicon Valley grew up together. But it’s not only the tech world that is reacting.
Star Trek actor and LGBT activist George Takei tweeted out the #BoycottIndiana hashtag yesterday upon hearing the news.
What’s interesting is that it’s not just the CEOs of technology companies that fight for gay rights, but the technology itself that allows these debates to be had in real-time, across the globe, with millions of participants’ voices being heard.
Update: Tim Cook has weighed in on the matter with this tweet: