Execs from Salesforce, Marriott, Unilever and Other Corporations Urge Lawmakers to Oppose SJR39

by Ianthe Metzger

SJR 39 is an anti-LGBT ‘First Amendment Defense Act’-style proposal that goes far beyond religious freedom, and seeks to enshrine discrimination into the Missouri Constitution

WASHINGTON – Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, announced that more than 50 executives from major corporations, including Salesforce, Marriott International, Bloomberg L.P., Unilever, Intel, Yelp, The Hartford, and many others, have signed onto an open letter addressed to Missouri House of Representatives Speaker Todd Richardson. In the letter, the major CEOs and business leaders urge state lawmakers to oppose Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 39. Similar to the anti-LGBT H.B. 1523 bill recently passed in Mississippi, SJR 39 would open up broad exemptions allowing people and businesses to discriminate against LGBT people. Under the proposed Missouri law, for example, a same-sex couple could be turned away at a deli counter, or a transgender person could be refused service by taxpayer-funded employees in government offices.

“Missourians don’t want to see us go back to a time when people could be turned away and discriminated against just because of who they are, or what they look like,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “The vast majority of Americans believe laws like these -- which are designed to make LGBT people second-class citizens in their own homes, schools and communities -- are wrong. That’s why CEOs of some of the largest companies in Missouri and America are speaking out against SJR 39 today. Not only would this bill hurt their employees and their consumers, they know it would also be terrible for business and Missouri’s economy.”

The full letter can be found here and below.

Similar to so-called “First Amendment Defense Act” legislation introduced in other states, SJR 39 would lead to a ballot measure that proposes allowing individuals, organizations, and businesses to use religion as a valid excuse to discriminate against LGBT people.

SJR 39 goes far beyond protecting the right of free exercise of one’s religion. While shrouded in language framed as prohibiting the state government from making funding or tax status decisions based on an organization’s views on marriage that are driven by religious belief, in reality it opens the door to discrimination against same-sex couples, their families, and those who love them.

The legislation could have reckless intended and unintended consequences. If voted into law, LGBT people and their families could suddenly find themselves at risk of being denied many basic services. Businesses could refuse to provide goods or services to same-sex couples. Taxpayer-funded foster care providers and adoption agencies could refuse to place children in need of loving homes with same-sex couples. Taxpayer-funded homeless shelters could turn away LGBT couples and their families. The measure could also undermine existing LGBT non-discrimination protections passed at the local level, including in cities like Columbia, Kansas City, and St. Louis.

In addition to the major CEOs and business leaders signing onto this letter, the discriminatory proposal has received widespread condemnation from fair-minded Missourians and businesses throughout the state, including Governor Jay Nixon, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, Dow Chemical Company, and Monsanto. The St. Louis Regional Chamber said the proposal is “counter to MO values & will have negative economic consequences.” Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have also spoke out against the resolution.

Despite a historic filibuster by Senate Democrats attempting to stop the anti-equality majority from moving the resolution forward, the Senate passed the measure in early March, and it is now pending consideration in the House of Representatives.

The discriminatory measure addresses no real problem in the state as no federal or state law requires religious organizations or clergy to sanction or perform same-sex marriages.

The full letter from major CEOs and business leaders states:

Dear Speaker Richardson,

We write with concerns about legislation your chamber is currently considering, SJR 39, which would place on the statewide ballot, a constitutional amendment that would allow individuals, religious organizations and private associations to use religion to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Missourians in some of the most important aspects of their lives, including at work, at schools, in their family life and more. Put simply, SJR 39 is not an initiative that reflects the values of our companies.

We were disappointed to see the Senate pass this discriminatory legislation. The business community, by and large, has consistently communicated to lawmakers at every level that such laws are bad for our employees and bad for business. This is not a direction in which states move when they are seeking to provide successful, thriving hubs for business and economic development. We believe that SJR 39 will make it far more challenging for businesses across the state to recruit and retain the nation’s best and brightest workers and attract the most talented students from across the country. It will also diminish the state’s draw as a destination for tourism, new businesses, and economic activity.

Discrimination is wrong, and we believe it has no place in Missouri or anywhere in our country. As companies that pride ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming to all, we strongly urge you to work to ensure this bill is not brought to the ballot.


            Laura Alber, President and Chief Executive Officer, Williams-Sonoma, Inc.
            Brandee Barker, Cofounder and Partner, Pramana Collective
            Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO, Salesforce
            Chip Bergh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Levi Strauss and Co.
            Michael Birch, Founder, The Battery
Steven Boal, CEO, Quotient
            Craig Bromley, President, John Hancock Financial
            Wes Bush, Chairman, CEO and President of Northrop Grumman

            Lloyd Carney, CEO, Brocade Communications Systems, Inc.
            Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Founder and CEO, Joyus
            William Castle, Chief Diversity Officer & Vice President HR Business Process Effectiveness, Xerox Corporation
            Amy Chang, CEO, Accompany
            Alex Constantinople, CEO, The OutCast Agency
            Chad Dickerson, CEO, Etsy
            Amy Erret, Founder and CEO, Madison-Reed
           Jared Fliesler, General Partner, Matrix Partners
           Jennifer Fonstad, Cofounder and Managing Partner, Aspect Ventures
           Joe Gebbia, Cofounder and CPO, Airbnb
           Jason Goldberg, Founder, Pepo
           Peter T. Grauer, Chairman, Bloomberg L.P.
           Julia Hartz, Cofounder and President, Eventbrite
           David Hassell, CEO, 15Five
           Robert Hohman, Founder and CEO, Glassdoor
           Drew Houston, CEO, Dropbox
           Laurene Powell Jobs, Founder and Chair, Emerson Collective
           Steve Joyce, President and Chief Executive Officer, Choice Hotels International, Inc.
           David Karp, Founder and CEO, Tumblr
           Travis Katz, CEO, Gogobot
           Albrecht Kissel, President, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica
           Kees Kruythoff, President, North America, Unilever
           Brian Krzanich, CEO, Intel
           Sarah Leary, Cofounder, Nextdoor
           Aileen Lee, Founder and Managing Partner, Cowboy Ventures
           Max Levchin, CEO, Affirm, Inc.
           Aaron Levie, CEO, Box
           Dion Lim, CEO, NextLesson
           Andrew N. Liveris, CEO and Chairman of the Board, The Dow Chemical Company
           Joe Lonsdale, General Partner, 8VC
           Rob Marcus, Chairman and CEO of Time Warner Cable
           Melody McCloskey, Founder, StyleSeat
           Dr. Nathan Myhrvold, Founder and CEO, Intellectual Ventures
           Christopher J. Nassetta, President & Chief Executive Officer, Hilton Worldwide
           Lorrie Norrington, Operating Partner, Lead Edge Capital
           Bob Page, Chairman and CEO, Replacements, Ltd.
           Sunil Paul, Founding Partner, Spring Ventures
           Michelle Peluso, CEO, Gilt
           Kevin Ryan, Founder and Chairman, AlleyCorp
           Gary Shapiro, President and CEO, Consumer Technology Association
           Tom Sheahan, CEO, Red Oxygen
           Arne Sorenson, President and CEO, Marriott International
           Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO, Yelp
           Christopher J. Swift, Chairman and CEO, The Hartford
           Brian Tippens, Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
           David Tisch, Managing Partner, BoxGroup
           Nirav Tolia, Cofounder and CEO, Nextdoor
           Anne Wojcicki, CEO, 23andMe
           Emanuel Seth Yekutiel, CEO, ESY Strategies
           John Zimmer, Cofounder and President, Lyft

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


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