Tech leaders tell states to add protections for gays

Tech leaders tell states to add protections for gays
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Leaders of Microsoft, Twitter, eBay, Airbnb, Lyft, Cisco and dozens of other technology companies joined forces on Wednesday to press state legislatures to add nondiscrimination protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Amid heated pressure over new religious freedom bills that opponents say would condone discrimination, the more than 70 executives told lawmakers to make sure their LGBT residents are protected with the full force of law.

“Religious freedom, inclusion, and diversity can co-exist and everyone including LGBT people and people of faith should be protected under their states’ civil rights laws,” the executives said in their joint statement.

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“To ensure no one faces discrimination and ensure everyone preserves their right to live out their faith, we call on all legislatures to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes to their civil rights laws and to explicitly forbid discrimination or denial of services to anyone.”

“Anything less will only serve to place barriers between people, create hurdles to creativity and inclusion, and smother the kind of open and transparent society that is necessary to create the jobs of the future,” they added.

The recent state laws approved in Indiana and Arkansas have put GOP lawmakers on the defensive, and forced them to walk a fine line between supporting the measures and maintaining their opposition to discrimination.

On Wednesday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said that he won’t sign a new state bill unless it is changed to more closely mirror the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. 

In Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence (R) called for legislation to clarify that the original state bill would not allow businesses to deny services to anyone. Already, however, at least one pizza joint has captured headlines by saying it would refuse service to a gay couple's wedding.

Liberals have leaped to denounce the new law, and they have been joined in recent days by prominent businesses from the tech sector.

Leaders of Netflix, Yelp, Tumblr LinkedIn were among those who signed on to Wednesday’s tech industry statement, which was coordinated by the Human Rights Campaign and Affirm — a tech company that provides financial services — a few notable names such as Google, Facebook and Apple did not sign on. Apple CEO Tim Cook has previously compared the Indiana law to segregation in the Jim Crow South.  

This story was updated on April 2 at 12:08 p.m.