Critics of the bill, like Benioff, believed that if the bill became a law, it would have legalised anti-gay discrimination in the state.
The bill permitted faith-based organisations to deny services based on a “sincerely held religious belief” relating to marriage, and to cite religious beliefs when making employment decisions.
Salesforce was among 400 businesses in an organisation called Georgia Prospers that spoke out against the bill when Georgia’s congress was working on it.
Benioff: the anti-discrimination pied piper
But Benioff was more than just a voice among many. He’s been a cheerleader against such legislation being crafted in several states.
Benioff loudly took on Indiana last year, where Salesforce is a major tech employer, when it passed a similar bill. He threatened to cut financial investment in that state. Many others in Indiana joined him in speaking out against the bill. It didn’t stop the bill from being passed, but it did cause Indiana to modify the law afterwards saying it could not be used to justify discrimination.
That mollified Benioff at the time but in Georgia’s case, Benioff dug his heels in.
After the state’s congress passed the bill, the company warned that if the Governor didn’t veto it, “Salesforce will have to reduce investments in Georgia” including moving one of its big conferences out of Atlanta.
Other big names in tech also condemned the bill and encouraged Governor Deal to veto it, such as Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. However Krzanich stopped short of saying there would be consequences from Intel if the Governor signed the bill into law anyway.
Certainly, there were other ramifications for Georgia beyond Salesforce’s threat.
One tech entrepreneur, led by an openly gay CEO, is moving his tech company out of Georgia. Kelvin Williams, founder of telecom company 373K told Business Insider that his company was personally welcomed by Delaware’s governor.
The Georgia bill also garnered the ire of Michael Dell, Richard Branson and a bunch of Hollywood big shots who said they would abandon movie-making operations in Georgia if the bill was signed into law.
Still, it’s hard to minimise Benioff’s contribution to this outcome, the vetoed bill.
He’s been loudly trumpeting against it, at one point even criticising Apple CEO Tim Cook for not personally speaking up as well.
During an interview with CNBC’s Jim Cramer, Benioff said, “I think what Tim Cook should be doing is getting down right now to the state of Georgia and talking to those leaders about House Bill 757.”
All eyes on North Carolina
Next up, however, is North Carolina, which also just passed a law that critics say encourages discrimination against the LGBT community.
Thanks to the high profile cases in Indiana and Georgia, the public outcry on the Carolina law was swift, immediate and reverberated well beyond Benioff and the tech community.
Businesses like Bank of America, Salesforce, Red Hat, Apple, IBM, Microsoft all quickly condemned the law. So did Hollywood. For instance, director Director Rob Reiner pledged to halt film productions in North Carolina until the law is repealed.
Still, Monday was a time for celebration, with the Georgia law dead and Salesforce’s investment in the state safe. Benioff tweeted: