Human Rights Campaign President Calls on Corporate Leaders to Rise Up and Fight Wave of Anti-Trans and Voter Suppression Bills in State Legislatures in Open Letter

by Elizabeth Bibi

Transgender flag, blue, pink, white lines together

HRC’s Open Letter — Appearing As Full-Page Ad in Today’s New York Times — Asserts “Companies Cannot Rise Up and Speak Out Against Hate in the Streets but Remain Silent When They See Hate Being Indoctrinated in Our Laws”

WASHINGTON – Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people – is calling on the leaders of Corporate America to take an active role in speaking out and condemning the unprecedented wave of anti-transgender and voter suppression bills moving through state legislatures across the country. These bills are attempting to erase transgender people, make LGBTQ people second class citizens, and deny marginalized communities the right to vote.

In an open letter — published in today’s New York Times as a full-page print ad — HRC President Alphonso David made the urgent case for Corporate America to intervene, channeling its influence and resources to stem the spread of dangerous, anti-trans momentum taking shape in many states:

“In order to achieve equality, we need those in positions of power at the largest businesses in the country to rise up against injustice and discrimination; businesses that have increasingly over the years embraced the inherent benefits of being socially responsible. Corporate social responsibility means companies must integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with stakeholders. It means corporations must define their values with their own actions. In its most basic form, that means they must support their employees, stakeholders and consumers being treated fairly under law.

We ask corporations to go far beyond internal corporate policies or a freshly worded press release and involve all the levers of power that businesses have today. Principles only mean something if we stand by them in inconvenient times. We ask ALL corporate leaders to stand by them now.”

Alphonso David, President, Human Rights Campaign

David laid out multiple ways for companies to step forward, from continuing to endorse legislation like the Equality Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act to additional state-level actions:

  • Publicly denounce state legislation that discriminates against people, particularly those bills that discriminate against transgender and non-binary people.
  • Refuse to advance new business in states that are hostile to corporate social values.
  • Refuse to support sporting events where transgender athletes are banned or athletes taking a knee are penalized.

HRC’s call on Corporate America comes as an extraordinarily high volume of anti-transgender legislation is being considered in state legislatures across the country.

Currently, there are ten anti-LGBTQ bills awaiting signatures from governors, half of which are anti-trans measures. These are among the more than 115 anti-trans bills being considered in at least 30 states, including legislation that would block trans student athletes from playing sports as well as legislation that would prevent trans people from accessing medical care. These bills and others like them being introduced across the nation effectively deny basic and fundamental rights to certain groups of people, namely, transgender and non-binary people – and they must be stopped.

While many companies have weighed in in recent weeks supporting voting rights, and many have supported federal legislation that would protect the right to vote (the John Lewis Voting Rights Act) and ensure non-discrimination laws protect LGBTQ people, women, people of color and religious minorities (the Equality Act), David said they should not ignore the responsibility to take action against anti-equality and anti-trans bills at the state level. He encouraged corporate leaders looking for a place to start to visit HRC's Count Me In campaign, where they can find multiple pathways to publicly speak out against anti-LGBTQ state legislation, endorse the Equality Act, and support trans and non-binary community members both in and outside their companies.

The full text of the open letter can be read in the print edition of today’s New York Times, and can also be found here and below.

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“What Do We Need from Corporate America?”

Dear leaders of Corporate America,

As of today, hundreds of bills have been introduced in state legislatures around the country that attempt to erase transgender people, make LGBTQ people second class citizens, and deny marginalized communities the right to vote. These bills and others like them being introduced across the nation effectively deny basic and fundamental rights to certain groups of people — and they must be stopped. We cannot thrive in any democracy if, because of our identity, we are denied the ability to access resources, use our voice at the ballot box — or frankly — to exist under the eyes of the law.

In order to achieve equality, we need those in positions of power at the largest businesses in the country to rise up against injustice and discrimination; businesses that have increasingly, over the years, embraced the inherent benefits of being socially responsible. Corporate social responsibility means companies must integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with stakeholders. It means corporations must define their values with their own actions. In its most basic form, that means they must support their employees, stakeholders, and consumers being treated fairly under law.

Many corporate leaders have weighed in on systemic racial injustice, including the recent rash of violence against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Although we certainly appreciate those efforts, they are not enough. Companies cannot rise up and speak out against hate in the streets but remain silent when they see hate being indoctrinated in our laws by state legislatures and in the halls of the U.S. Capitol.

Although many companies have weighed in to support federal legislation that would protect the right to vote (John Lewis Voting Rights Act) and ensure non-discrimination laws protect LGBTQ people, women, people of color, and religious minorities (Equality Act), they should not ignore the responsibility to take action against anti-equality bills at the state level.

Some companies provide protections for employees and their families because they lack basic civil rights protections, while systematically undermining their civil rights by not working to stop discriminatory legislation. To be clear, the lives of corporate employees are directly impacted if their rights are suppressed in the states that they live in — they become state-sanctioned targets, lose critical and lifesaving protections for their families, and ultimately live in fear. Further, ignoring regressive state legislation creates a patchwork of legal protections that make it impossible for companies, their employees, or their customers to truly thrive.

We thank the corporate leaders who have already weighed in, but we need the help of ALL leaders in corporate America to rise up and stand by the principles and values they espouse in their administrative manuals and on their websites.

We ask corporate leaders to take action now by publicly denouncing state legislation that discriminates against people, refusing to advance new business in states that are hostile to corporate values and refusing to support sporting events where transgender athletes are banned or athletes taking a knee are penalized. For leaders looking for a place to get started, you can check out HRC’s Count Me In campaign.

We ask corporations to go far beyond internal corporate policies or a freshly worded press release and involve all the levers of power that businesses have today. Principles only mean something if we stand by them in inconvenient times. We ask ALL corporate leaders to stand by them now.

Sincerely,

Alphonso David, President

Human Rights Campaign

He/Him/His

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

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