Georgia’s Proposed Religious Right to Discriminate Law

Business leaders taking a stand against Georgia’s proposed Religious Freedom legislation have a new — and high profile — ally.

The Georgia Senate last week approved legislation that combined two bills: the “Pastor Protection Act,” which would assure clergy they would not have to perform same-sex marriages; and the “First Amendment Defense Act,” which would allow religious nonprofits to deny services to same-sex marriages.

Salesforce Inc. chief Marc Benioff, who threatened to pull employees out of Indiana after that state proposed similar legislation, is now threatening to scale back in Georgia.

Benioff joins several Georgia businesses, including AT&T (NYSE: T), Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: CCE), The Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD), SunTrust Banks Inc. (NYSE: STI) and United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE: UPS), who oppose. The Metro Atlanta Chamber sent a letter to all 56 state senators informing them it had signed a pledge to oppose the bill put together by Georgia Prospers, a coalition headed by former Georgia Senate GOP leader Ronnie Chance.

Scaling back in a corporate hub such as Atlanta could be damaging to the company and the city.

San Francisco-based Salesforce employs several hundreds of people in Atlanta. Last year the software company expanded its “regional hub” in Buckhead — adding about 300 jobs — following its acquisition of ExactTarget for $2.5 billion. In late 2013, ExactTarget acquired Pardot, an Atlanta marketing automation startup for $95 million.

Urvaksh Karkaria covers Technology.

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