Silicon Valley Executives Lead Opposition to Anti-LGBTQ Law

As they did with Indiana a year ago, Benioff, Cook, Zuckerberg, Dorsey and others led Silicon Valley business leaders in protest of the new North Carolina law.

Almost exactly a year after 39 Silicon Valley leaders joined together to curtail their business in the state of Indiana after its legislature and governor enacted a law enabling discrimination against LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) citizens based on faith beliefs, a second and larger group of business leaders applied the same pressure March 30 to North Carolina.

Indiana Senate Enrolled Act No. 101, signed by Gov. Mike Pence on March 26, 2015, allows state residents to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against LGBTQ people. This time, more than 90 high-ranking business executives—most of whom are from IT companies—came together to sign an open letter in protest of a similar law passed March 23 and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory in North Carolina, H.B. 2, which strips LGBTQ North Carolinians of some of their civil rights.

H.B. 2 revokes local gay and trans nondiscrimination ordinances throughout the state, effectively legalizing anti-LGBTQ discrimination, and forbids transsexual people from using a bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. That includes trans public school students, many of whom will now, in effect, be barred from using a bathroom at school.

H.B. 2 Enables Discrimination, Advocacy Group Contends

H.B. 2 also eliminates existing municipal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people and prevents such protections from being passed by cities in the future. The legislation forces transgender students in public schools to use restrooms and other facilities inconsistent with their gender identity.

The law also enables the same type of discrimination against transgender people to take place in state buildings, including in public universities. Lawmakers passed the legislation in a hurried, single-day session March 23, and McCrory quickly signed it into law late at night.

The letter, drafted by the national Human Rights Campaign (HRC), came into the news only a day after Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced he would veto anti-LGBT legislation in Georgia after facing a sustained outcry from a broad chorus of advocates and companies. A similar law was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona in 2014.

The HRC describes itself as "the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization."

Letter Going to Governor March 31

HRC President Chad Griffin and Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro said March 30 that they will deliver the letter personally to McCrory's office on March 31. Griffin and Sgro have also requested a meeting with the governor the same day to discuss the impact this new law will have on LGBT North Carolinians.

As they did a year ago, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, Zynga founder Mark Pincus, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston and LinkedIn Chairman Reid Hoffman were among a list of notable Silicon Valley business leaders who added their names to the HRC letter. This time, executives from Bank of America, American Airlines, Cisco Systems, Miramax, Uber, Google Ventures and Braeburn Pharmaceuticals also signed the open letter.

"Discrimination is bad for North Carolina, bad for America, and bad for business," Griffin said in a media advisory. "These business leaders are speaking out because they know this attack on lesbian, gay, bisexual and especially transgender North Carolinians isn't just morally wrong—it also puts their employees, customers and North Carolina's economy at risk."

"North Carolina's place as a business leader in the South is based on fairness, inclusion, and diversity," Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro said in the same advisory. "HB 2 does not represent North Carolina values, and it weakens our competitive edge. We are glad to see our business community in the Old North State standing up against discriminatory measures like this. Governor McCrory made a mess of our state last week, and our businesses are leading the charge to repair our state to a place of fairness."

Silicon Valley Leaders Exhibit Political Muscle

At the very least, this week's show of unity among business leaders and the direct action they have taken to fix a problem is another wakeup call to the industry and to the industry's ecosystem. It's a wakeup call about how much actual power and persuasion a coalition of this type can wield, if channeled correctly.

The full letter to McCrory with the list of signatories is noted here:

Dear Governor McCrory,

We write with concerns about legislation you signed into law last week, H.B. 2, which has overturned protections for LGBT people and sanctioned discrimination across North Carolina. Put simply, H.B. 2 is not a bill that reflects the values of our companies, of our country, or even the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians.

We are disappointed in your decision to sign this discriminatory legislation into law. 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 H.B. 2 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 nation. 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 North Carolina or anywhere in our country. As companies that pride ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming to all, we strongly urge you and the leadership of North Carolina's legislature to repeal this law in the upcoming legislative session.


Karen Appleton, Senior Vice President, Box
Brandee Barker, Cofounder, The Pramana Collective
Marc Benioff, CEO, Salesforce
Chip Bergh, President and CEO, Levi Strauss & Co.
Michael Birch, Founder, Blab
Ed Black, President and CEO, Computer & Communications Industry Association
Nathan Blecharczyk, Cofounder and CTO, Airbnb
Steven R. Boal, CEO, Quotient Technology Inc.
Lorna Borenstein, CEO, Grokker
Brad Brinegar, Chairman and CEO, McKinney
Lloyd Carney, CEO, Brocade Communications Systems, Inc.
Brian Chesky, CEO, Airbnb
Ron Conway, Founder and Co-Managing Partner, SV Angel
Tim Cook, CEO, Apple
Dean Debnam, Chairman and CEO, Workplace Options
Jack Dorsey, CEO, Square and Twitter
David Ebersman, Cofounder and CEO, Lyra Health
Jared Fliesler, General Partner, Matrix Partners
Joe Gebbia, Cofounder and Chief Product Officer, Airbnb
Jason Goldberg, CEO, Pepo
Alan King, President and COO, Workplace Options
Kristen Koh Goldstein, CEO, BackOps
Mitchell Gold, co-founder and chair-man, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
John H. Graham IV, President and CEO, American Society of Association Executives
Logan Green, CEO, Lyft
Paul Graham, Founder, Y Combinator
David Hassell, CEO, 15Five
Charles H. Hill III, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Human Resources, Pfizer Inc.
Reid Hoffman, Chairman, LinkedIn
Robert Hohman, Cofounder & CEO, Glassdoor
Drew Houston, CEO, Dropbox
Chad Hurley, Cofounder, YouTube
Dave Imre, Partner and CEO, IMRE
Dev Ittycheria, President & CEO, MongoDB
Laurene Powell Jobs, President, Emerson Collective
Cecily Joseph, VP Corporate Responsibility and Chief Diversity Officer, Symantec CorporationTravis Kalanick, CEO, Uber
David Karp, Founder and CEO, Tumblr
Travis Katz, Founder and CEO, Gogobot
Brian Krzanich, CEO, Intel
Joshua Kushner, Managing Partner, Thrive Capital
Max Levchin, CEO, Affirm
Dion Lim, CEO, NextLesson
Shan-lyn Ma, CEO, Zola
Bill Maris, CEO, Google Ventures
Marissa Mayer, President and CEO, Yahoo
Melody McCloskey, CEO, StyleSeat
Douglas Merrill, CEO, Zestfinance
Dyke Messinger, President and CEO, Power Curbers Inc.
Brian Moynihan, CEO, Bank of America
Hari Nair, Vice President and General Manager, &
Michael Natenshon, CEO, Marine Layer
Alexi G. Nazem, Cofounder and CEO, Nomad Health
Laurie J. Olson, EVP, Strategy, Portfolio and Commercial Operations, Pfizer Inc.
Bob Page, Founder and CEO, Replacements, Ltd.
Doug Parker, Chairman and CEO, American Airlines
Michelle Peluso, Strategic Advisor and former CEO, Gilt
Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google
Mark Pincus, Founder and Executive Chairman, Zynga
Hosain Rahman, CEO, Jawbone
Bill Ready, CEO, Braintree
Evan Reece, CEO, Liftopia
Stan Reiss, General Partner, Matrix Partners
John Replogle, CEO, Seventh Generation
Chuck Robbins, CEO, Cisco Systems
Virginia M. Rometty, Chairman, President and CEO, IBM Corporation
Dan Rosensweig, CEO, Chegg
Kevin P. Ryan, Founder and Chairman, Alleycorp
Bijan Sabet, General Partner, Spark Capital
Julie Samuels, President, Engine
George A. Scangos, PhD, CEO, Biogen
Steve Schoch, CEO, Miramax
Dan Schulman, President and CEO, PayPal
Adam Shankman, Director and Producer
Gary Shapiro, President and CEO, Consumer Technology Association
David A. Shaywitz, MD, PhD, Chief Medical Officer, DNAnexus
Behshad Sheldon, President and CEO, Braeburn Pharmaceuticals
Ben Silbermann, CEO, Pinterest
Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft
Arne Sorenson, President and CEO, Marriott International
David Spector, Cofounder, ThirdLove
Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO, Yelp
Bret Taylor, CEO, Quip
Todd Thibodeaux, CEO, CompTIA
David Tisch, Managing Partner, BoxGroup
Nirav Tolia, Cofounder and CEO, Nextdoor
Kevin A. Trapani, President and CEO, The Redwood Groups
Ken Wasch, President, Software & Information Industry Association
Bob & Harvey Weinstein, Co-Founders and Co-Chairmen, The Weinstein Company
Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO, Facebook

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...