U.S. companies use social media to denounce laws seen as anti-gay

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. companies took to social media on Wednesday to denounce new laws enacted by southern states that target the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

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Companies like International Business Machines Corp and Herbalife International Inc used Twitter to criticize a North Carolina measure targeting transgender bathrooms and a Mississippi ‘religious freedom’ law allowing people to deny wedding services to gay couples.

The tweets illustrate how diversity-minded corporations are using their clout as major employers in Republican-controlled states to wield influence against measures they consider LGBT discrimination. Social media provides a way to communicate their views to the masses.

Herbalife tweeted, “We are proud to join @equalitync, @HRC and a chorus of business voices opposed to #HB2,” referring to the North Carolina law that requires people to use bathrooms or locker rooms in schools and other public facilities that match the gender on their birth certificate, rather than their gender identity.

“Discrimination of any type should not be tolerated.”

Several technology executives also criticized a Mississippi bill allowing people with religious objections to deny wedding services to same-sex couples after Governor Phil Bryant signed it into law on Tuesday.

IBMPolicy (‏@IBMpolicy), the Twitter account for government affairs at IBM, tweeted, “Disappointing that Mississippi Gov @PhilBryantMS signed H.B. 1523. IBM strongly opposes this discriminatory bill.”

Brad Smith (‏@BradSmi), president and chief legal officer at Microsoft Corp, said, “Very disappointing to see the news from Mississippi. These laws are bad for people, bad for business, and bad for job growth. #HB1523”

The tweets follow PayPal Holdings Inc’s move on Tuesday to cancel plans to open a global operations center employing 400 workers in Charlotte, North Carolina.

At least one other company said it would also reconsider expanding in North Carolina. Ric Elias, chief executive of Red Ventures, a sales and marketing company, posted a letter on Twitter that said he was reconsidering adding jobs in a state that tolerates discrimination.

Similar disputes have broken out between business interests and social conservatives in other Republican-controlled states since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015.

In Georgia, companies have won the outcome they were seeking. In late March, after top executives at companies ranging from Inc to Unilever PLC protested a bill allowing faith-based organizations to deny services to LGBT people, the governor there said he would veto it.

Unilever Chief Executive Paul Polman tweeted on March 20, “Inclusive society critical to business. Many will reconsider investment if @governerdeal passes #hb757.”

Reporting by Anjali Athavaley; Editing by Andrew Hay