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Tech companies condemn religious freedom legislation in Indiana and Arkansas

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Tech companies are reaffirming their support for LGBT rights, as they condemn new laws that are seen as discriminatory against gays and lesbians. In a joint statement, a group led by executives from Twitter, Airbnb, Tumblr, and LinkedIn called for the establishment of legal protection for gays and lesbians under civil rights laws.

“Discrimination is bad for business and that’s why we’ve taken the time to join this joint statement.”

“To ensure no one faces discrimination and ensure everyone preserves their right to live out their faith, we call on all legislatures to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes to their civil rights laws and to explicitly forbid discrimination or denial of services to anyone,” the letter read.

“Anything less will only serve to place barriers between people, create hurdles to creativity and inclusion, and smother the kind of open and transparent society that is necessary to create the jobs of the future. Discrimination is bad for business and that’s why we’ve taken the time to join this joint statement.”

The letter is in response to “religious freedom” bills that are pending — or have been signed into law — in Arkansas and Indiana. Last week, Indiana Governor Mike Pence approved the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which critics say authorized businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians. The law inspired protests and boycotts, with corporations and major events like the NCAA Final Four and GenCon threatening to pull out of the state. The governor has since pledged to revise the law, in light of the recent backlash.

A similar bill was awaiting the signature of Governor Asa Hutchinson in Arkansas. Yesterday, as the political and financial repercussions of adopting an RFRA became clear, Hutchinson sent back the bill to lawmakers for revisions.

“We want to be known as a state that does not discriminate, but understands tolerance,” he said in a news conference. “We just didn’t get it perfect through that legislative process.”

The statement from tech industry leaders echo an earlier op-ed from Apple CEO Tim Cook. Cook, who announced that he is gay last October, described religious freedom laws are “very dangerous.”

“These bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality,” he wrote in a piece published by the Washington Post.

Indiana is the 20th state to adopt a religious freedom law. A federal RFRA was adopted 22 years ago. However, the Indiana law is mostly unique because it protects the religious freedom of corporations and can be applied even when the government is not involved.

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