IT Business Leaders Join Protest Against Indiana Law

Benioff, Cook and 37 others sign statement against law in addition to curtailing business travel to the Midwestern state.

protest against Indiana law

Thirty-nine Silicon Valley C-level executives joined forces April 1 in a concerted protest against the recently enacted Indiana "religious freedom" law—in addition to other anti-LGBT bills pending or signed in to law in states around the country—that are now under attack all over the United States.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff (pictured), one of the first to tweet his protest on the day the bill was signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on March 26, was among those who signed a "Joint Statement from Tech Industry Leaders" sent to media outlets via email. So was Apple CEO Tim Cook, who came out as a gay person last fall and wrote a thoughtful column in the Washington Post pointing out both the social and business ills of the law, which could allow state residents to hide behind their religious beliefs to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Benioff, in reaction to Indiana's adoption of the law, said March 26 that his company is canceling all required travel to the state by Salesforce employees to avoid potential discrimination while they would be in the state.

Law Could Be Understood to Allow Discrimination

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law in Indiana March 26 by Gov. Mike Pence, would prohibit state and local laws that "substantially burden" the ability of people—including businesses and associations—to follow their religious beliefs.

"This unprecedented and historic effort by the giants of the tech industry should be a clarion call to policymakers that discriminating against LGBT people is not acceptable in today's marketplace of ideas," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin."These leaders have made it clear: if states want high tech jobs, they must put fully inclusive nondiscrimination protections in place immediately."

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.

"If anything can be learned from the battle for fairness and equality in Indiana, Arkansas, and other states, it's that LGBT people deserve to be protected from unjust discrimination," said Max Levchin, CEO of Affirm, and the organizer of the joint statement. "We are proud to stand on the side of liberty and justice and call on all legislatures to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in non-discrimination protections. This will ensure that no one faces discrimination while everyone preserves their right to live out their faith."

Here is the full statement released April 1:

Joint Statement from Tech Industry Leaders

"The values of diversity, fairness and equality are central to our industry. These values fuel creativity and inspiration, and those in turn make the U.S. technology sector the most admired in the world today.

"We believe it is critically important to speak out about proposed bills and existing laws that would put the rights of minorities at risk. The transparent and open economy of the future depends on it, and the values of this great nation are at stake.

"Religious freedom, inclusion, and diversity can co-exist and everyone including LGBT people and people of faith should be protected under their states' civil rights laws. No person should have to fear losing their job or be denied service or housing because of who they are or whom they love.

"However, right now those values are being called into question in states across the country. In more than twenty states, legislatures are considering legislation that could empower individuals or businesses to discriminate against LGBT people by denying them service if it they felt it violated their religious beliefs.

"To ensure no one faces discrimination and ensure everyone preserves their right to live out their faith, we call on all legislatures to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes to their civil rights laws and to explicitly forbid discrimination or denial of services to anyone.

"Anything less will only serve to place barriers between people, create hurdles to creativity and inclusion, and smother the kind of open and transparent society that is necessary to create the jobs of the future. Discrimination is bad for business and that's why we've taken the time to join this joint statement."


Max Levchin, CEO, Affirm
Mark Pincus, Chairman, Zynga
Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO, Yelp
Marc Benioff, CEO, SalesForce
Jack Dorsey, CEO, Square
Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter
Joe Green, CEO, Lyft
Brian Chesky, CEO, AirBnB
Joe Gebbia, CPO, AirBnB
Nathan Blecharczyk, CTO, AirBnB
Ron Conway, CEO, Axon JuriMed Group LLC
John Donahoe, CEO, Ebay
Paul Graham, CoFounder, YCombinator
Rich Barton, Chairman, Zillow Group
Chad Hurley, CEO, Mixbit
Adora Cheung, CEO, Homejoy
Phil Libin, CEO, Evernote
Trevor Traina, CEO, IfOnly
Nirav Tolia, CEO, NextDoor
Dion Lim, CEO, NextLesson
Bret Taylor, CEO, Quip
Joe Lonsdale, CEO, Formation 8
Thomas Layton, Chairman, Elance-odesk
Fabio Rosati, CEO, Elance-odesk
Dave Morin, CEO, Path
Mark Goldstein, Chairman, BackOps
Kevin Rose, CEO, North Technologies
Yves Behar, CCO, Jawbone
Padmasree Warrior, CTSO, Cisco Systems
Tony Conrad, CEO,
Sunil Paul, CEO, Sidecar
Michael Moritz, Chairman, Sequoia Capital
Dan Schulman, President, PayPal
Devin Wenig, President, eBay Marketplaces
Robert Hohman, CEO, Glassdoor
Laurene Powell Jobs, Founder and Chair, Emerson Collective
Mohan Warrior, CEO, Alphalight
David Spector, CIO, Penny Mac
Shervin Pishevar, CoFounder, Sherpa Ventures

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...