In a letter to Gov. Pat McCrory from Robert Greenberg, IBM’s senior executive in North Carolina, the tech giant spells out “strong opposition” to North Carolina’s proposed N.C. Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The bill “would enable discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or identity,” Greenberg wrote.
The bill has been introduced in both the House and Senate where it was referred to committees after passing “first reading” on March 26 in the House and March 30 in the Senate. The bills prohibit state laws that “burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs.The definition of “person” includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.
“IBM is opposed to discrimination against anyone on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. We urge you to work with the Legislature to ensure that any legislation in this area is not discriminatory,” Greenberg wrote.
Similar bills have triggered waves of protests in Indiana and Arkansas where the legislation was later revised.
IBM, which employs several thousand people in Research Triangle Park, is one of numerous major technology companies where executives, include Apple and Cisco, have spoken out against these bills. They say the bills encourage discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities (LGBT).
McCrory in a recent radio interview in Charlotte expressed opposition to the bill. McCrory said many of the policies expressed in religious freedom bills “make no sense.”
Greenberg cited McCrory’s remarks in the letter which is headlined: “IBM Letter Opposing North Carolina’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act”
“I am writing to express IBM’s strong opposition to S.B. [Senate Bill] 550, the North Carolina Religious Freedom Restoration Act. We welcomed the reports of your opposition to the bill, and wanted to make you aware of IBM’s point of view on this important matter,” Greenberg wrote in a letter dated April 7.
“IBM has a large number of employees and retirees in North Carolina and is gravely concerned that this legislation, if enacted, would enable discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or identity. We call on members of the Legislature to defeat this bill.
“Our perspective is grounded in IBM’s 104-year history and our deep legacy of diversity and inclusion — a legacy to which we remain strongly committed today. IBM is opposed to discrimination against anyone on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. We urge you to work with the Legislature to ensure that any legislation in this area is not discriminatory.”
Greenberg is not alone among N.C. technology executives.
Jim Whitehurst, chief executive officer of Red Hat, also has spoken out against what he calls “divisive” rights legislation.
IBM sent a similar letter to Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana where a similar religious freedom bill is under consideration.