The CEO who took on Indiana ‘religious liberty’ law targets Georgia proposal

Opponents of SB 129 march to the Capitol steps on Tuesday, where they chanted slogans and signed messages to their legislators. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Opponents of SB 129 march to the Capitol steps on Tuesday, where they chanted slogans and signed messages to their legislators. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

The tech company executive who helped force changes to Indiana’s controversial “religious liberty” law has Georgia’s measure in his crosshairs.

Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff told CNBC he was “very worried” about the proposal approved Friday by the Georgia Senate that would allow opponents of same-sex marriage to cite religious beliefs in denying services to gay couples.

The red flag was raised when Benioff was asked about Apple chief executive Tim Cook’s fight with the FBI over encryption software. Here’s what he said:

“I think that what Tim Cook should be doing is getting down right now to the state of Georgia and going down and talking to those leaders and talking about House Bill 757 because we’re very worried about what’s happening to our employees down there with more discrimination, like what we fought back in Indiana last year just reared its head in HB 757. And that’s what I think Tim Cook should be focused on right now.”

Benioff scrapped his company’s events in Indiana after the governor signed a law in April 2015 that could protect businesses that refuse to serve gay couples amid a growing business backlash to the legislation. Indiana legislators and Pence soon agreed to soften the measure.

In Georgia, business leaders and gay rights groups have warned that the legislation could damage the state’s reputation and spark boycotts. One Decatur tech startup has already decided to leave for Nevada. Supporters, though, say it won’t interfere with the state’s business climate.

“We are simply ensuring that no Georgian suffers at the hand of our government for their view on marriage,” said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a supporter of the measure.

Salesforce, a cloud-computing company, has a major presence in Atlanta. It owns Pardot, the Atlanta-based business email startup, and recently set up a regional hub in Buckhead with hundreds of employees.

Watch the video below – Benioff’s Georgia comments are near the end:

Read more about the debate here.


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