PayPal, Salesforce Take Preemptive Strike Against Religious Freedom Laws

PayPal and Salesforce, two of the businesses that rose up against religious freedom laws in Indiana and North Carolina, are reportedly leading a preemptive strike against similar legislation in 2017.

PayPal was the first top-drawer tech company to pull out of North Carolina in 2016 after Gov. Pat McCrory signed legislation that blocked local governments from passing religious freedom ordinances or anti-discrimination protection for lesbian, gay, transgendered or bisexual people.

"Our decision is a clear and unambiguous one," wrote Dan Schulman, PayPal's president and chief executive, in a company blog post at the time. "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."

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff spoke out against Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015. He was one of the critics of the legislation who painted the RFRA as being blatantly discriminatory against the LGBT community.

The day before Gov. Mike Pence was scheduled to sign the bill, Benioff threatened to stop a company expansion in Indiana. After Pence signed the bill, Benioff did himself one better. Benioff announced plans to cancel all Salesforce programs that involved customers or employees traveling to Indiana.

Then, a week after that, Benioff approved company-paid relocation packages for employees who wanted to get out of Indiana.

"I just got an email on the way to studio from another employee who said, 'look I don't feel comfortable living in this state anymore, you have to move me out,' and I gave him a $50,000 relocation package and said, 'great, you're clear to go,’” Benioff told CNN in April 2015.

Now, with a slew of Republican state legislators — rookies and incumbents — moving into their offices for 2017 sessions, PayPal and Salesforce are looking at LGBT rights from a preemptive, rather than reactive, point of view.

BuzzFeed reported that an invitation-only planning summit was convened in San Francisco on Nov. 15. It was expected to include as many as 100 leaders of LGBT rights groups and like-minded business leaders.

An invitation to the summit, obtained by BuzzFeed, showed the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom for All Americans, the National Center for Transgender Equality, Lambda Legal, the ACLU, Gill Action and the Transgender Law Center would all be making presentations.

“The tide of legislative attacks has been increasing,” Jenny Pizer, the law and policy director of Lambda Legal, told BuzzFeed. “Businesses have played an evermore decisive and high-profile role in saying ‘no.’”