Whole Foods, Pepsi, HP, Hyatt call on Mississippi to repeal anti-gay law

Sat. April 9, 2016 12:32 PM by Carlos Santoscoy

Nearly a dozen executives have signed on to an open letter calling on Mississippi to repeal a so-called religious freedom law they criticized as discriminatory.

The law, signed Tuesday by Republican Governor Phil Bryant, allows religious organizations and businesses related to the wedding industry to deny service to gay and transgender people. The law protects individuals – including state workers – who believe for religious reasons that marriage is reserved for heterosexual couples. It is a response to the Supreme Court's June 2015 finding that gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.

"We are disappointed to see the legislature and governor's office pass discriminatory legislation," the executives wrote. "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 HB 1523 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 country. It will also diminish the state's draw as a destination for tourism, new businesses, and economic activity."

"Furthermore, schools, employers, and service providers could refuse transgender people access to appropriate sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity – all in direct conflict with the U.S. Department of Justice's enforcement of federal law. HB 1523 even legalizes Kim Davis-style discrimination by allowing government employees to abdicate their duties and refuse to license or solemnize marriages for LGBT people," they wrote, a reference to the Kentucky clerk who unsuccessfully fought to keep her office from issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

"As companies that pride ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming to all, we strongly urge you to repeal this bill," they added.

The letter is signed by Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., Alex Dimitrief, senior vice president at GE, Sandy Douglas, executive vice president at the Coca-Cola Company, Steve Joyce, CEO of Choice Hotels, Andrew N. Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical, Bob Page, CEO of Replacements, Ltd., Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods, Brian Tippens, chief diversity officer at HP, Robb Webb, chief human resources officer at Hyatt Hotels, Tony West, executive vice president of government affairs at PepsiCo.

Other companies that have separately condemned the law include Nissan Group, Tyson Foods, MGM Resorts, Toyota, AT&T, IBM, MassMutual and the Mississippi Manufacturers Association (MMA

Article provided in partnership with On Top Magazine