Georgia Businesses Brace for Crushing Boycott

One of the most anti-gay pieces of legislation the country has ever seen swept the Georgia Senate by a whopping 38-14 margin Friday, sending Georgia-based businesses into a defensive frenzy. The business community, along with LGBT, African-American and Jewish leaders, are trying to stop the bill in the House before it becomes law. Business leaders are desperate to avert an economic boycott reminiscent of Indiana’s stumble on the same issue only one year ago. Not surprisingly, the economic repercussions facing Georgia, which Governor Nathan Deal touted in his re-election campaign as the “#1 State For Business”, have already begun.

Atlanta-based telecommunications company 373K announced it will be leaving Georgia and relocating its headquarters to Nevada. Founder Kelvin Williams stated to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution “We are trying to get the best talent we can, and I don’t want to be in a state where it is hard to attract the best talent”.

In 2015, Indiana passed a similar law, leading to widespread condemnation from many of the country’s top employers.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff kicked off an economic boycott of the state by announcing plans via Twitter to cancel all Salesforce programs that would require customers or employees to travel to Indiana.

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In what has been called “the tweet heard round the world,” Benioff’s message was retweeted over 10,000 times, and corporate giants including Apple, NASCAR, Yelp, the NBA, Accenture, the GAP, Twitter, and many others soon joined on, threatening to pull business from the state.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s approval ratings plummeted as Indiana began facing economic losses in the billions of dollars. The Governor swiftly and publicly retreated from the anti-gay law, and the Indiana legislature amended the bill.

In a nearly identical situation now playing itself out in Georgia, the list of companies opposing the anti-gay legislation now reads like a Who’s Who of prominent Georgia businesses, including Delta, Coca-Cola, Porsche, SunTrust, Home Depot, AT&T, UPS, Turner, Arby’s, Accenture, Deloitte, Equifax, Cox Enterprises, Invesco, Marriott Hotels, Emory University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Georgia Power, the Atlanta Dream, MailChimp, Regions Bank, Synovus Bank, KPMG, Kaiser Permanente, Wells Fargo, Google, Bain & Company, Intercontinental Hotels Group, Denton’s, PNC Bank, Lexis Nexis, Mohawk Industries, Post Properties, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, and scores of others. Despite the vocal opposition of business interests, Republican legislators seemed intent on advancing their social agenda. Business lobbyists were impotent at the state capital Friday as legislators scoffed at the notion that they were spoiling job creation and threatening to cost the state billions.

The legislation, GA House Bill 757, would allow any person or business to disregard laws that conflict with their religious beliefs about marriage.  For example, under the new bill a local Chick-Fil-A would be able to legally refuse service to lgbt persons, interfaith couples, single mothers, divorced individuals and others.

Img Credit: wsbtv.com

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who opposes the legislation, listed a few similarly troubling real-life consequences of the Georgia law:

  • A single mother and her child could be legally denied access to a town’s publicly funded domestic violence shelter
  • A hospital could legally deny a husband the opportunity to say goodbye to his dying spouse
  • An interfaith couple could be legally denied the use of a commercial wedding space

In what seemed like a Twilight Zone episode playing itself out live on the floor of the Georgia Senate Friday, Democratic Senator Emanuel Jones, an African-American, asked the bill’s sponsor, Greg Kirk, if his legislation would protect the Ku Klux Klan. Senator Kirk replied that yes, it would, and that he had “no problem” with protecting the KKK, likening the group to the Black Panthers.

Img Credit: motherjones.comImg Credit: motherjones.comNot a single Democrat voted in favor of the bill. Similarly, African-American and Jewish leaders across Georgia have almost unanimously opposed the legislation. “This bill could have a broad range of harmful consequences, from discrimination against gays and lesbians in Georgia to individuals claiming religious rights to ignore the laws that we already have on the books,” said Rabbi Peter Berg, Senior Rabbi at The Temple in Atlanta.

The legislation now moves to the Georgia House Monday, where it could be approved as early as this week and move to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk.

Georgia Unites Against Discrimination has

For more information or to get involved, visit GLAAD’s blog here.

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