On Thursday, the Indiana governor signed into law one of the most controversial bills in the nation, a law that could shield business owners from facing legal consequences if they refuse to serve members of the LGBT community.
Supporters of the bill say it’s meant to protect business owners from being forced to do things like cater a gay wedding if gay marriage violates their religious beliefs. But opponents of the bill, which includes a number of prominent Indiana businesses like Salesforce, say the bill legalizes discrimination.
In fact, Salesforce’s CEO Marc Benioff, known for his support of social causes, was part of a last ditch effort Wednesday night to persuade Governor Mike Pence to veto the bill. Benioff, along with a handful of other Indiana tech CEOs, co-signed a letter opposing the measure.
Later Wednesday evening, Benioff tweeted a flat-out threat:
We are forced to dramatically reduce our investment in IN based on our employee’s & customer’s outrage over the Religious Freedom Bill.
— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) March 26, 2015
The letter and tweet followed an earlier letter sent last week by Salesforce exec, Scott McCorkle, who runs Salesforce Marketing Cloud, the unit that includes ExactTarget. Salesforce bought ExactTarget in 2013, headquartered in Indianapolis, with over 2,000 employees. McCorkle’s letter also contained a softer-toned threat that if the Indiana passed that bill Salesforce would reconsider its investment in Indiana.
Obviously, none of it worked and Pence signed the bill into law Thursday morning.
So, what will Salesforce do to make good on its threats?
The company wouldn’t comment on if this meant that it would cease hiring workers, or if it was going to move some or all operations out of Indiana.
But Benioff did immediately cancel all company events and programs that require anyone to travel to Indiana.
He’s not alone in doing that.
Huge video-gaming convention Gen Con has been hosted in Indianapolis for more than a decade, bringing in 50,000 people a year to the state. Its organisers threatened to move it if the bill was signed. The convention hasn’t officially announced its plans to move the 2015 convention, scheduled for late July, but its official Twitter account said it was writing a letter this morning.
The whole situation is eye-opening. Not only has the LGBT community been put on notice in Indiana, but, as
Shane Hendrickson posted in reply on Twitter, “@Gen_Con Leaving will also hurt businesses who DO welcome all. Let’s not punish them. Let’s find a way for 50k attendees to support them.”