IBM urges Louisiana to scrap anti-gay ‘religious freedom’ bill

PinkNews logo with white background and rainbow corners

Software giant IBM has expressed its disappointment at Louisiana House Bill 707, which aims to protect “religious freedom”.

Governor Bobby Jindal wants to push ahead with a bill specifying discrimination for same-sex marriage.

His bill, like those being fought over in Indiana, Arkansas and other states, would “protect” businesses from having to serve customers if it had a religious objection against them. Unlike the other states, however, Governor Jindal’s bill specifies beliefs about marriage in its wording.

Writing to Governor Jindal on Wednesday, Jason Driesse, IMB’s Senior State Executive wrote about the reasons the company decided to invest in the state, and how the Bill could be damaging.

He wrote: “IBM has made significant investments in Louisiana, including most recently a technology services delivery center in Baton Rouge, creating new jobs for Louisiana workers,” the letter states. “We located the center in Baton Rouge because we believe Louisiana has great talent and would continue to be a rich source of such talent.

“However, a bill that legally protects discrimination based on same-sex marriage status will create a hostile environment for our current and prospective employees, and is antithetical to our company’s values. IBM will find it much harder to attract talent to Louisiana if this bill is passed and enacted into law.”

Responding on Thursday, Governor Jindal wrote: “In Louisiana, we do not support discrimination, and we do support religious liberty, and we believe that we can uphold both of those values simultaneously,” he wrote. “Our country was founded on the principle of religious liberty. We support the Bill of Rights and simply don’t believe the government should ever force someone to participate in a marriage ceremony against his or her will.”

Former Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger has spoken out against his fellow Republicans who support religious freedom bills.

Businesses across the United States have similarly expressed their disappointment with such bills, arguing they will hurt business in the areas where are in effect

Since introducing a similar bill, the state of Indiana faced boycotts from several large companies, celebrities and other states, and has since hired a PR agency to perform damage limitation.