March 19, 2016

MBenioff to Leave GA w/16k jobs if Gov.Signs anti Gay Religious Bill







        Marc Benioff [By Jason Alden/Getty Image]
      
By Jason              

Salesforce C.E.O. Marc Benioff is playing hardball with Georgia governor Nathan Deal over the state’s pending Religious Freedom Bill. Passed by the Georgia state legislature on Wednesday night, the legislation would effectively allow faith-based organizations—which are broadly defined in the bill—to discriminate based on a “sincerely held religious belief” pertaining to marriage. And Benioff, who is known in Silicon Valley for his philanthropy, is threatening to make the decision economically damaging for Deal if he signs it into law.

Benioff didn’t hide his displeasure with the bill in a series of tweets this week. “One [sic] again Georgia is trying to pass laws that make it legal to discriminate,” he tweeted Thursday. “When will this insanity end?” Last month Benioff asked Deal to veto the bill, saying he would take his business out of the state if the law passed (Salesforce currently has a conference scheduled in Atlanta, and Benioff’s company employs 16,000 people). He posed a question to his followers on Twitter last month: Should Salesforce divest from Georgia if the bill is signed into law? Eighty percent of his followers said yes. On Friday, the C.E.O. tweeted, “The economy of Georgia is now in the hands of @GovernorDeal as he considers an anti-gay law.”

Now that the bill has passed through Georgia’s state legislature, Benioff is doubling down. Salesforce published a statement on Thursday dropping the hammer. “If HB 757 is not vetoed and instead becomes law, Salesforce will have to reduce investments in Georgia, including moving the Salesforce Connections conference to a state that provides a more welcoming environment for the LGBTQ community,” the company said. Benioff is raising the stakes in his fight for gay rights, and not for the first time. Last year, he tried to get Indiana to veto a similar bill. The legislation passed anyway, though Benioff and others were able to pressure the state to modify the law afterward.

Benioff isn’t the only business leader speaking out against Georgia’s Religious Freedom Bill. Michael Dell and Richard Branson have also voiced their opposition to the bill.


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