A growing number of U.S. states have proposed or passed laws that permit discrimination against members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities. As Omar el Akkad in Portland, Ore. and Joanna Slater in New York report, the backlash from multinational corporation may cost those states jobs and investment
E arlier this month, as dusk set over North Carolina’s biggest city, one of the tallest skyscrapers in Charlotte lit up with a giant pink triangle – a public statement of support for gay and transgender rights.
The group responsible for broadcasting that statement? Wells Fargo, the largest bank in the United States.
Last month, North Carolina joined a growing number of state legislatures that have either passed or tried to pass bills that could enable discrimination against members of the gay, lesbians and transgender communities. The reaction from various advocacy groups has been swift and overwhelmingly negative; a number of celebrities have canceled appearances in states where such laws are under consideration; myriad local governments, such as the cities of New York and Boston, have also essentially boycotted such states, directing government employees to avoid non-essential travel to those destinations.
But perhaps the most significant negative reaction – and the one that signals the most important shift in the American socioeconomic landscape – has come from the business community. Within just a few days, hundreds of the country’s biggest and most well-known corporations have come out in opposition to the proposed laws – not only with strongly worded press releases, but with real economic broadsides.
This month, shortly after North Carolina introduced a bill that would, among other things, force people to use the public bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate (a move decried by many as a means of discriminating against transgender people), PayPal announced it was canceling plans to build a new operations centre in the state. The move will cost North Carolina 400 jobs and about $20-million in payroll spending alone.
“Our decision is a clear and unambiguous one,” said Dan Schulman, PayPal’s President and CEO. “As a company that is committed to the principle that everyone deserves to live without fear of discrimination simply for being who they are, becoming an employer in North Carolina, where members of our teams will not have equal rights under the law, is simply untenable.”