City firms stand against Indiana anti-gay law

San Francisco-based cloud computing company Salesforce Inc. hasĀ barred all employee trips to Indiana after Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, ostensibly giving businesses the right to turn away lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the law will allow people to claim that they have a right to refuse to follow anti-discrimination protections and laws based on their religious beliefs. Salesforce chief executive officer, Marc Benioff, said via social media website Twitter on Wednesday that his company wouldn’t support the state’s actions.

Benioff said via Twitter:

“We are forced to dramatically reduce our investment in IN based on our employee’s & customer’s outrage over the Religious Freedom Bill.”

Following Pence’s signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law on Thursday, Benioff announced via Twitter that Salesforce was “canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination.”

San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee also condemned Indiana’s passage of the law on Thursday and immediately directed all San Francisco city departments to bar publicly-funded city employee travel to Indiana that is not “absolutely essential to public health and safety.” Lee said:

“San Francisco taxpayers will not subsidize legally-sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by the State of Indiana.”

Jeremy Stoppelman, chief executive officer at San Francisco-based mobile app, Yelp, posted an open letter to states considering imposing discrimination laws on Thursday, urging them to rethink their positions. In the letter, Stoppelman writes:

“While Indiana is the most recent state to enact a law allowing for this kind of discrimination by businesses, unfortunately measures are being debated in other states across the country that would follow Indiana’s example.”

Stoppelman added:

“… 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 said Yelp plans to only expand its corporate presence in states that do not have these laws allowing for discrimination. California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, as well as celebrities Miley Cyrus and Ashton Kutcher, have been among those to denounce Indiana’s new law on social media.

According to the ACLU, Indiana is the first state to pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act this legislative session and that it is one of 24 such acts introduced in 15 states this year that could allow individuals to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against others.

Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union said:

“Unfortunately, the fight continues, with states like Arkansas and Georgia dangerously close to passing similar legislation. We hope leaders in those states are paying attention to the public outcry in their states and seeing the economic backlash in Indiana and elsewhere.”

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Cupertino-based Apple Inc., has also expressed his company’s deep disappointment in the new law. Cook called on Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson to veto a similar law in that state, House Bill 1228.

According to the ACLU of Arkansas, House Bill 1228 would allow employees to claim they don’t have to follow company policies that don’t comply with their beliefs and allow individuals, such as teachers and landlords, to decide who they rent property to or who they teach.