Tech industry mounts pressure, threatens exodus over Arizona's proposed 'anti-gay' law

Tech industry mounts pressure, threatens exodus over Arizona's proposed 'anti-gay' law

Summary: Apple, Intel, Salesforce.com, and now Microsoft are just a few of the big corporate names adding their voice forward to protest Arizona's SB 1062, a law that would allow employees and workplaces to discriminate against people based on their religious beliefs.

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TOPICS: Government US
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(Image: Wing-Chi Poon/Wikimedia Commons)

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has until Friday to decide whether or not she will veto a bill that will not simply undermine, but entirely unravel the state's workplace anti-discrimination policies.

Arizona's state legislators delivered a bill, voted on by the Republican-controlled state Senate, and by the Republican-controlled state House. 

Brewer has until Friday to actively intervene and veto the bill, or it becomes law.

The controversial bill, known as Arizona SB 1062, seeks to amend the state's existing laws in a vague and unpredictable way that would effectively allow individuals to refuse service so long as that decision is made solely on their personal religious beliefs.

The law amends the existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would vastly expand the definition of a "person" beyond a "religious assembly or institution" to any individual, corporation, estate, trust, or any other legal entity.

It gives that expanded range of individuals and companies the "ability to act or refusal to act," so long as it was "in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief."

Naturally, the first thing that comes to mind is the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. But it goes far beyond that.

The 6.5 million people living in Arizona are, by law, already permitted to discriminate against gay people because no such preventative legislation exists. But now this bill, if it becomes law, will allow a greater scope of people and companies to discriminate against someone due to their religious beliefs — which can now include anything from sexuality, nationality, skin color, marital status, or even gender.

It's no surprise, therefore, that major technology companies, including Apple, Intel, and Salesforce.com, have publicly declared their opposition — in some cases threatened an exodus — from the state in protest at the law, which they claim would have a "detrimental effect on the local business community by promoting discord and damaging Arizona's status as a hospitable place to grow business and attract top talent," according to Intel. 

Microsoft in an email to ZDNet on Wednesday confirmed it "supports a veto" of the bill.

Apple confirmed earlier this week that a representative spoke to Brewer's spokesperson Andrew Wilder to throw its weight behind the growing army of opposition to the bill.

And, Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff tweeted on Wednesday: "If this bill passes we will never do another corporate event in Arizona."

"If this bill passes we will never do another corporate event in Arizona." — Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff

It's worth noting dozens of other non-tech industry companies are also in favor of Brewer vetoing the bill, including American Airlines, McDonalds, and Target.

A list of companies urging Brewer to veto the bill can be found here.

Large and smaller companies have made a habit of intervening in legislative disputes and affairs, particularly over the past 20 years have fought hard for gay rights for their employees and partners. Not least last year, which saw a coalition of more than 200 companies urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the controversial Defense of Marriage Act, which led to the legalization of same-sex marriages.

Their argument was simple. Arizona remains a crucial place for technology companies from chip-making and smartphone display facilities to research labs and datacenters. Hundreds of thousands of top talent from around the U.S. and the world work in the state to create some of the next-generation technologies that Arizona's congress-people will end up no doubt using in their computers and phones.

These businesses rely on all the vast array of people with dimensions of difference. We have a gay guy running Apple, one of the most popular technology companies in the world, and we have companies like Facebook that celebrate pride events. For crying out loud, we have a black guy in the highest office in the United States. 

I'd honestly pay good money to see someone in Arizona refuse to serve the President because of their deep-rooted convictions that he's secretly a Muslim, or he wasn't actually born in a U.S. state, or because he too has come out in support of gay marriage.

And I'd certainly like to see Arizona Sen. Steve Yarbrough (R-17th) smash his iPhone on the pavement and switch to an Android phone because he might catch "gay cooties."

The bill becoming law will see tourism take a nose-dive, throttle innovation in the state, and people will leave for better places — and so will the companies. 

Because by the very vague nature of this bill, it's entirely possible to drum up any religious sensibility and throw it back at someone who's different from you, in almost any way, shape and form.  

Of course, this bill would vastly expand First Amendment of free speech. But those rights frankly go so beyond the line in the sand that the line is a mere dot on the horizon.

Let's not forget this was the state that had serious anti-immigration policies that allowed police to pick out a slightly brown or tanned person and rifle through their documentation to determine if they were in fact allowed to be in the state.

Academics and lawyers call that "racial profiling." But law enforcement does not like the term because it has negative connotations. One can't possibly imagine why.

For a country founded on the principles that the church and the state should remain separate, it's surprising to see how far religion has and continues to infiltrate the very hearts of our state and federal legislative systems. 

Updated at 7:45 pm ET: with a statement from Microsoft.

Topic: Government US

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28 comments
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  • A variation on "stand your ground"

    These laws are basically a variation on "stand your ground" where the GOP puts a gun to its own head, stands its ground, and pulls the trigger to comical effect.

    Way to ensure that no one under age 30 will ever vote for any of your candidates.
    dsf3g
    • What I find funny

      is that they may have unwittingly just legalized Sharia law, which a year ago, they were all jumping up and down about.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • No it isn't...

      Most of the people surveyed didn't care about the LGBT agenda and it didn't hurt Chic Fil-A at all.

      However, this is one side making laws without considering the ramifications of such laws. Right now, it might work for Christianity but, in the future it could be Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccan people discriminating against them.

      However, I seriously doubt this is the whole GOP party supporting this bill.

      Oh and Zack, that would not have been the first thing to cross my mind.
      slickjim
      • Chic Fil-A was different in that

        the CEO never said they weren't going to serve the gay community, or not hire them.

        All he did was state his personal beliefs, but that was it. And you're right, many GOP in AZ did not sign it, and were openly against it.

        Though none of that matters - the Governor just vetoed it.
        William.Farrel
        • Ahh no

          Instead they came out in support of traditional marriage and opposed gay marriage because it went against the companies biblical principals.

          Besides, does it really matter? If some company doesn't like what you stand for, they don't have to tell you why they didn't hire you to begin with.
          slickjim
  • You know I don't consider myself terribly liberal

    and I'm someone who would be a lot more comfortable in a church pew than at a pride parade, but good grief - who cares? So two dudes want you to print photos from their wedding? Just get on with it, print the damn photos, and don't be such a diva about it.

    Tolerance means putting up with one another as who we are. It really doesn't take that much effort. Hopefully the tech companies and the Superbowl 2015 committee can knock some sense into their pocketbooks, if not their actual brains.
    Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • I disagree

      No, people should not be legally required to violate their consciences in order to earn a living unless there is a *very* good reason (like people might die otherwise). There is a balance to be struck (the rights of others have to be considered), but any bias should be in favor of freedom of conscience. An official policy to make abortion and homosexuality noncontroversial isn't good enough.

      That's said, I don't know anything about the proposed Arizona statute, so I really can't comment on it.
      John L. Ries
      • Consciences...

        Only prostitutes can discriminate against gays IMHO. Everywhere else it does not matter.
        paul2011
        • Sure it does

          Is there really a compelling public reason to compel professional photographers to cover same sex marriages? Is there even a compelling public reason to require medical doctors to perform elective abortions on demand as a condition for keeping their licenses. Or are those things mere rewards for party loyalty?

          It's one thing to legalize an activity; quite another to compel others to participate, directly or indirectly.
          John L. Ries
      • re: I disagree

        > people should not be legally required to violate
        > their consciences

        People are legally required to do lots of things whether it violates their consciences or not. But that's not the issue. The issue is should people be required to violate their religious doctrine and teachings. That's a different matter.

        Ordinarily I agree people should not. What I don't agree with is that *the act of* printing photographs, to use the OP's example, can be considered a violation of someone's religious beliefs.

        Think of a Hindu restaurateur. It's against his religion to serve beef and he should not be forced to do it. But I don't think it's legitimate religious exercise to own a restaurant that doesn't serve Hindus.
        none none
        • Interestingly enough...

          ...my thought processes are much the same. But I see the photographer example as more like the Hindu restaurant being forced to serve beef on the theory that failure to do so discriminates against non-Hindus (or worse, is an effort to impose religious regulations on the general public; to appropriate the rhetoric of some secularists). What might be worse would be general prohibition against businesses making economic decisions for non-economic reasons (how about suing shopkeepers for closing on Sunday when it's clear they could make a lot of money by staying open? Are they not discriminating against non-Christians by depriving them of a day to shop?).

          The other question to consider is who is next going to be considered a persecuted minority whose civil rights need active protection? Nudists? Polyamorists? Pornography users? Smokers? Recreational drug users? And what sorts of accommodations are they going to insist that outsiders be legally required to make for them (since anything less would constitute "discrimination", if not "persecution")? Remember that same sex marriage was considered to be unthinkable in the US 30 short years ago (it was actually one of the arguments against the Equal Rights Amendment). The history of the past century indicates that we have no idea how culture is going to evolve, or what sorts of demands are going to be made of government or the general public in the future. But the legal precedents we set today will directly influence those demands, whatever they are, as past ones have influenced present day demands.

          I also have difficulty pinpointing *any* organized group of cultural reformers that has ever stated that it's gotten everything it wanted and will therefore either disband, or focus on protecting the gains already made. It seems there are always more demands and they're *always* non-negotiable (in the long run, anyway).
          John L. Ries
          • re: Interestingly enough...

            > But I see the photographer example as more like the
            > Hindu restaurant being forced to serve beef on the
            > theory that failure to do so discriminates against non-Hindus

            To me, that's like saying Fredericks of Hollywood discriminates against Canadians by not selling curling stones.

            The Hindu chef does not serve beef, period, because to *sell beef* violates his religion. He is not in the same class as the Christian baker who will sell a cake to me, but refuse one to you.
            none none
          • The real issue is...

            ...the baker will sell a cake to anyone, but won't decorate it in a fashion he finds offensive.
            John L. Ries
        • You're misinformed.

          It wasn't "printing photographs" which was at issue. One instance was a photographer who declined to take the actual photos of the homosexual "wedding" because she felt it would be in violation of her religious beliefs. Romans 1:32 would be the specific verse I would quote to support her, with the full reading being Romans 1:18-32. By being there and taking photos, she felt she would be participating in something which violated her beliefs. Any clear-thinking person can see her side and acknowledge her rights in this case.

          Another couple of cases were bakers who simply don't do wedding cakes for homosexual "weddings", on the same grounds. Again, Romans 1:32.

          Any clear-thinking, intellectually honest person would have to admit that these good citizens must not be compelled, in a free country, to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs just because they operate a business -- THEIR OWN business which THEY built from the ground up from THEIR OWN blood, sweat and tears.
          roncemer
  • Zimbabwe.. Arizona

    First Zimbabwe, now Arizona.. It is tough to be gay.
    paul2011
  • Not giving Christians the same rights as other religions.

    Jews and Muslims who keep Kosher / Halal can refuse to sell pork , Muslims and Mormons can elect not to serve alcohol and Indian Hindu Restaurants can neglect not to serve beef curry, if they are Jain they may not sell any meat, but a Christian bake rcannot elect not to bake a gay cake.

    The right to determine no to stock an item or service on the basis religion has been with our nation for a long time why should Christians be exempted from the same rights as other religions.
    Scatcatpdx
    • re: Not giving Christians the same rights as other religions.

      > Jews and Muslims who keep Kosher / Halal can refuse
      > to sell pork , Muslims and Mormons can elect not to
      > serve alcohol and Indian Hindu Restaurants can neglect
      > not to serve beef curry, if they are Jain they may not sell
      > any meat,

      Nome of those examples is discriminatory.

      > but a Christian bake rcannot elect not to bake a gay cake.

      That is.

      If it was against Christianity to bake cakes, that would be one thing if a Christian baker refused to sell cakes. But your Christian baker does sell cakes, right? So how is he like the Halal butcher?
      none none
      • To what extent...

        ...should people be legally required to accomodate or participate in practices they believe to be morally wrong. Note that the terms of the GNU GPL explicitly discriminate against proprietary developers by prohibiting the distribution of derivative works on a proprietary basis, while allowing pretty much all other uses. I have defended Richard Stallman's right to do exactly that on any number of occasions and would again, because it doesn't matter if the moral principle held is religiously based or not.

        I'm sure a Christian baker will sell you as many cakes as you're willing to buy, no matter who you are; but demanding that he assist in celebrating a relationship he believes shouldn't exist is, I think, a violation of his rights. In an ideal world, nobody would ever be asked to surrender his morals at the office door; that's probably not realistic, but it should be minimized, nevertheless.
        John L. Ries
        • re: To what extent...

          > demanding that he assist in celebrating a
          > relationship he believes shouldn't exist is,
          > I think, a violation of his rights.

          That exaggerates his role out of any kind of proportion. When you go to the store to buy burgers and hots for your son's birthday cookout, how much do really consider the store to be assisting or participating (as some posters have put it) in your family celebration?

          I disagree that the baker's role is to "assist in celebrating" a wedding any more than Walmart is assisting in celebrating your son's birthday.
          none none
          • Wrong.

            If I'm dressing up, coming to your wedding, serving cake, taking photos or whatever...I'm there for the whole thing. As a Christian, I'm stuck in a situation which I find morally repugnant. I won't do it. I will not comply.

            If government cannot protect my rights as a Christian business operator to avoid situations which compromise my morals and my religious beliefs, then what makes you think it can protect your rights either?
            roncemer