Tim Cook, CEO of technology giant, Apple, Inc. is concerned about Indiana’s new law that could allow for the discrimination of the LGBT community. Indiana calls this “religious freedom.” The law says actions taken by the state or local government cannot significantly compound one’s freedom of religion. This law is called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
This law will allow for the legal discrimination of the LGBT community. Governor Mike Pence, of Indiana, said state legislators are working on clarifying the law’s intent so there are no misuses of the law. Cook is now focusing on other states who are considering enacting similar laws. According to Cook, there are over 100 bills in consideration in half the country.
Cook said these bills justify discrimination under the false pretense of defending the right to religious freedom. These bills go directly against the Constitution and have the ability to undo many years of progress America was making toward equality. These laws will divide the country and severely injure the economy.
High-end companies are taking sides and taking action. Salesforce.com, a site that specializes in the business process as well as Yelp, a site that reviews businesses are both willing to pull out of their investment plans in Indiana. Angie’s List, a website which also reviews businesses, is canceling a planned $40 million expansion into Indiana. This will have a painful impact on at least 1,000 jobs.
Companies in Silicon Valley are trending toward joining in on conversations about social issues on a national level. The technology industry has not gotten involved in political issues unless they were issues that affected their businesses. Now, the industry has realized that it has a substantial amount of political and economic pull in the United States.
In 2012, thousands of websites protested a controversial law regulating the Internet by participating in a service blackout. Those websites that participated were heavy rollers such as: Wikipedia, Google and Craigslist. These websites also requested that users contact their state representatives in Congress to stop the legislation. It did.
Now these companies, with Apple in the lead, are focusing on social issues and wielding their economic power to make an impact. Cook has drawn attention to Nevada and North Carolina. Apple has extremely large data centers in these states and has billions of dollars invested. Cook also mentioned Texas, as there is a $300 million campus that Apple has agreed to build there. Chips for the iPhones and iPads are also manufactured in Texas.
Cook did not make a direct threat but he did say that he and Apple, Inc. will not ever condone discrimination. Apple representatives were not quick to offer any comments. Cook has spoken publicly about being gay and he has spoken out against his own home state because the LGBT community does not have equality in Alabama.
Cook says this is not a religious issue, nor is it a political one. It is about how we interact as human beings. It takes courage to stand up against discrimination. However, Cook says that the dignity and lives of many people are on the line, so now is the time to be courageous.
Friday, Arkansas Governor, Asa Hutchinson approved a similar bill, after Cook recommended that he reject the bill. The bill was approved 24-7. Hutchinson believes this bill will protect religious freedoms. This law is not any different than the laws that have passed in 20 other states. Hutchinson said that Arkansas recognizes and appreciates the ranges of America’s economy and culture. Then Hutchinson declared that Arkansas was “open for business.” However, this law preventing business owners from being sued if companies do not produce services for members of the LGBT community is not “open for business” friendly, according to Cook. However, Arkansas and Indiana and other states believe it is the religious right for a business to refuse services to anyone on the grounds of religious beliefs.
Every sort of discrimination, in any form is bad for business. Cook says Apple aims to enrich and empower customers. Cook believes businesses should be fair and just and he is standing in opposition to these laws, wherever they come up. Cook has very strong ties to his Baptist faith but says that is not a reason to discriminate against anyone.
Have we returned to the days of “Whites Only” establishments, using separate water fountains and bathrooms… that part of America’s history is over and should remain in the past, declared Cook. America is supposed to be a place where there are opportunities for everyone. These bills are opting to choose some people’s religious freedoms over other people’s civil liberties and this is unconstitutional.
Texas has proposed a bill prohibiting government employees from giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples. If employees do not abide by this law, they risk losing their pensions, jobs or benefits. Cook says these states do not truly understand what is at stake. These laws are not just a threat to individual rights, they will weaken businesses and therefore the economy. These laws, now widespread, will damage growth, jobs and economic enthusiasm around the nation.
CEO Marc Benioff of Salesforce has declared that his company has canceled all Indiana events that were scheduled, in protest of the law. CEO Jeremy Stoppelman of Yelp spoke out against the law. Benioff wrote in a blog post, warning other states who are considering similar discrimination laws, that Yelp will only expand in states that do not allow legal discrimination. Technology will not stand for discrimination, but stand, will Tim Cook for equal rights.
By Jeanette Smith
Photo courtesy of Tim Evanson – Flickr License