Companies, Entertainers Pressure Govs to Overturn Gay-Bashing Laws

April 8, 2016 1:53 pm

anti LGBT lawsEmployers take a stand against biased laws to bolster recruitment, retention of top talent, especially among younger employees. Celebrities stand up against the injustices as well.

By Eve Tahmincioglu

The movement of some states to pass anti-LGBT laws, most recently in Mississippi and North Carolina, is in the bull’s-eye of a growing corporate coalition and key entertainers.

IBM (No. 22 on the 2015 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity) took to Twitter last week to make a public statement against the latest unjust foray, this time by Mississippi with legislation allowing people or organizations who have a religious reason for bigotry against LGBT individuals to deny services to them. @IBMPolicy — IBM’s official government and regulatory affairs Twitter account tweet — singled out Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, saying it was “disappointed” that he signed the legislation.

springsteenAnd beyond the corporate world, A-List entertainers were also following suit. Bruce Springsteen cancelled his band’s concert Friday in North Carolina, and Canadian singer Bryan Adams nixed his gig in Mississippi.

Springsteen wrote on his website:

“Right now, there are many groups, businesses, and individuals in North Carolina working to oppose and overcome these negative developments. Taking all of this into account, I feel that this is a time for me and the band to show solidarity for those freedom fighters.”

While it’s not unusual for musicians to take political stands, corporate activism like this appears to be catching on as well.

It’s a manifestation of the drive to get the top talent, a desire buoyed when companies are on the right side of social justice issues. Clearly, efforts to recruit and retain the best of the best employees to states that pass homophobic laws can be hampered, especially among millennials.

Members of Gen Y are among the most liberal when it comes to LGBT rights. Nearly 75 percent of millennials favor legal recognition of same-gender marriage, according to a Pew Research Center study released in June 2015. That compares to 59 percent among Gen Xers and 45 percent among Baby Boomers.

Millennials take their values to work, with 61 percent saying they are motivated to work for companies that align with their personal values, found a report by the Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers and Net Impact. And a global study by Deloitte (No. 12) reported 56 percent of Gen Y-ers have “ruled out ever working for a particular organization because of its values or standard of conduct.”

Business leaders know that “discrimination is bad for business,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). That statement is one in a series the organization put out recently about a growing list of companies that have signed on to urge states to rethink discriminatory laws.

Indeed, taking a public stance against anti-LGBT crusades makes sense for many of the most diverse companies in the country looking to find the best people.

“IBM stands by and stands up for its values,” said Laurie Friedman, a spokeswoman for the company

IBM is just one of many DiversityInc Top 50 companies that have taken such a bold stand against discriminatory tactics popping up around the country.

Other DiversityInc Top 50 Companies signed onto HRC’s letter, including the CEOs from Northrop Grumman (No. 35), Hilton Worldwide (No. 47) and Kellogg Company (No. 26).

Last month in Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal announced he planned to veto a proposed “anti-LGBT” bill he had intended to sign, following pressure from various U.S. corporations, including Marriott International (No. 13), IBM, The Walt Disney Company (No. 34) and Time Warner (No. 41), which threatened to take their business elsewhere.

And Toyota Motor North America (No. 36), an employer of 2,000 people at a Mississippi plant, was one of a handful of companies in the state raising concerns about legislation there, according to a story in the Mississippi Business Journal.

Another Top 50 company has been at the forefront of the corporate groundswell of opposition, Eli Lilly and Company (No. 24), with its opposition to the Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act that passed in 2015.

Lilly, No. 24 on the list, was joined by Cummins (No. 21) and Anthem (No. 23), all of which encouraged lawmakers to include language in the legislation barring any discrimination against LGBT individuals.

Why do this?

“Attracting and retaining a diverse workforce is critical for Lilly to achieve its mission of making medicines that help people live longer, healthier, more active lives,” said Janice Chavers, director of diversity and human resources communications for Lilly.

Lilly’s fight goes beyond just this legislation.

Controversy over the Act shined light on the reality that Indiana and about 30 other states have no civil rights protections for LGBT individuals, so the company, along with other businesses, plans on advocating for a law to provide those protections.

“We believe that many people will not come to the state if our civil rights laws are not protective of all people,” she explained. “The backlash the state received when the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed is indicative of that.”