Several businesses have threatened to leave Georgia after the state legislature passed a contentious bill that critics say will let organizations discriminate against LGBT people. Governor Nathan Deal has until May 3 to decide, and that decision will have consequences whether he vetos the bill or signs it.
The bill, dubbed HB 757, would prohibit “any adverse action” against organizations or individuals with “a sincerely held belief regarding lawful marriage … between a man and a woman.” The bill’s supporters call it a “religious freedom” law. However, it has drawn concern from businesses who believe the state will become less competitive on several fronts. Opponents of the law consider it an anti-gay bill that allows people and companies to discriminate against LGBT people.
The CEOs of Salesforce and business telecommunications company 373K have threatened to take their business out of Georgia if Deal signs the bill. CBS News reports that 373K founder Kelvin Williams may move to another state, possibly Delaware or Nevada if the bill is signed.
Williams added, “For the past year we’ve been building a global carrier network. We have to start hiring more.” But the bill could make it more difficult to recruit workers. He added, “I can’t always find the perfect person in Georgia. I might have to reach out across the world. Would I want to move to Georgia if someone else offered me a job after this? The answer is no.”
Williams added that his staff voted to move the company’s headquarters if Gov. Deal signs the bill. The 373K founded added that the governor of Delaware called him personally to invite the company there.
The CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff also voiced his opposition to the bill, saying that the company will “reduce investments” in the state if the governor doesn’t veto the bill. When he heard the legislature passed the anti-gay bill, Benioff tweeted, “[Once] again Georgia is trying to pass laws that make it legal to discriminate. When will this insanity end?”
The company later issued a statement saying that it will reduce investments in the state, including moving one of its tech conferences away from Atlanta. A spokesman sent a statement to Business Insider, adding that “the legislation creates an environment of discrimination and makes the state of Georgia seem unwelcoming to same-sex couples and the LGBTQ community.”
Other business leaders who openly oppose the bill include Dell’s Michael Dell, Virgin Group’s Richard Branson, and Microsoft’s Brad Smith. Given the opposition and threats from businesses, it is unlikely Governor Deal will make his decision on the purportedly anti-gay bill soon.