After a tumultuous election year in which homosexual activist groups targeted battleground state North Carolina over a law that stifled inappropriate public restroom usage for self-declared transgenders, two northern California tech companies are strategizing with LGBT activists to further immerse themselves in state policies and politics over gay issues and religious freedom.
Liberal Web site Buzzfeed reported last month that San Jose-based PayPal and San Francisco-based Salesforce co-hosted a summit on November 16 – in conjunction with groups including Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal and the ACLU – to strategize against expected legislation in 2017 that does not comport with their radical agenda. The online news site said up to 100 leaders from business and LGBT groups attended the meeting.
“An invitation to the event…said the agenda would cover battleground states for next year’s legislative fights and ‘a strategic discussion around the various ways we can collaborate in each state,’” Buzzfeed reported. “Justin Higgs, a spokesperson for PayPal, added by email, ‘Through this event, we strive to play a part in helping businesses protect employees, customers, and families from discriminatory actions in communities where they live and operate.’”
Earlier this year North Carolina’s General Assembly passed legislation, effective statewide, which overturned a Charlotte ordinance that would have allowed individuals to use restrooms based upon which gender they identified as on a given day. The city council’s order would have imposed the policy on private businesses, as well as public facilities. The state law instead requires users of public restrooms and locker rooms to do so according to the gender they are identified as on their birth certificate, but allows businesses to decide for themselves how to establish their own policies.
After Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill into law in March, homosexual pressure groups such as Human Rights Campaign and state-based Equality NC activated a national campaign – an economic war, actually – to attempt to shame the critical battleground state as “homophobic” and “discriminatory.” Besides the presidential campaign, a U.S. Senate race and the entire slate of state legislators, McCrory’s incumbency was also at stake this year, and Democrat Attorney General Roy Cooper succeeded in (barely) taking him out. He will become the next governor in January.
As for the aforementioned California technology companies, they played a significant role in assisting the gay activist groups’ efforts. In mid-March PayPal had announced it would expand activities at its Charlotte facility by adding 400 jobs, but in early April CEO Dan Schulman canceled those plans, citing the state law that overrode the ordinance.
“The new law perpetuates discrimination, and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture,” Schulman said at the time. “As a result, PayPal will not move forward with our planned expansion into Charlotte.”
Even more aggressively, Salesforce (a cloud computing company) CEO Marc Benioff waged a national campaign to pressure North Carolina over the law, known by its official bill filing number as “House Bill 2” (HB2). Benioff is known to enlist fellow corporate leaders to attack states that assert religious freedom rights on behalf of their citizens, such as Georgia and Indiana did over the last couple of years.
That’s exactly what he did against North Carolina too, after HB2 was enacted. Whereas in Indiana – where Salesforce has significant operations – Benioff could wield threats to move jobs and investment out of the state over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, he had no such leverage in the Tar Heel State. Instead, according to the Wall Street Journal, he reached out to Brian Moynihan, CEO of Charlotte-based Bank of America, and Deutsche Bank AG co-CEO John Cryan, to enlist their help in exerting pressure on McCrory and the Republican-led NC General Assembly.
Like PayPal, Deutsche Bank in April announced it would halt plans to expand operations in North Carolina that would have added 250 jobs. Also, Benioff helped gather commitments to endorse a protest letter against HB2 circulated by Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC, which was signed by more than 100 CEOs of major corporations, including Moynihan.
“We’re not attacking Gov. McCrory or any other politician,” Benioff told the Journal. “We’re protecting our employees from being unfairly discriminated against.”
This turned out to be a lie. McCrory’s Democrat challenger, Cooper, initiated the corporate action against his home state by contacting Benioff, so as to try to gain a political advantage in the governor’s race. And as Charlotte TV station WBTV reported in July, when a potential compromise was reached between Republicans and Democrats in the NC House of Representatives to amend HB2, Cooper intervened and pressured the legislators of his party to back off so as to preserve his attack issue against McCrory.
Unfortunately, rather than serve the interests of the broadest range of their shareholders and customers, too many corporation presidents are either willfully or begrudgingly catering to the political demands of the high-pressure Left. Companies like PayPal and Salesforce have now carried it so far as to actively strategize with the pressure groups to implement their agenda, as they did at their summit last month.
They have lost customers, but how much they pay for it with their bottom lines is yet to be seen.
Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center.