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Tech Leaders Call on Lawmakers to Reject Discrimination

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More than three dozen technology-industry executives issued a joint statement urging lawmakers to enact legislation protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination, responding to controversial religious-freedom measures in states such as Indiana and Arkansas.

The statement, organized by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin and released on the website of the Human Rights Campaign on Wednesday, was signed by executives such as Salesforce.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff, Twitter Inc. CEO Dick Costolo, EBay Inc. CEO John Donahoe and Sequoia Capital Chairman Michael Moritz.

“The values of diversity, fairness and equality are central to our industry,” the technology executives said in the 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.”

Benioff, Levchin, Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook and other industry leaders have spoken out against the Indiana and Arkansas measures in recent days, and many companies have said they will boycott states with such laws. Angie’s List Inc., based in Indianapolis, withdrew a proposal to expand its headquarters in its home city.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence on Tuesday asked the legislature to revise that state’s bill to clarify that it doesn’t permit discrimination. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said he won’t sign a bill there until it includes stronger protections, following pressure from businesses in the state.

The measures, known as Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, bar state and local governments from infringing on citizens’ religious beliefs. Opponents say the laws would give businesses the right not to serve gays and lesbians.

Twenty states have such laws, according to the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Sixteen states are considering creating or changing religious-freedom laws, according to the site.

According to data compiled by the Human Rights Campaign, 20 states at the end of last year had passed legislation prohibiting discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity, a narrower protection than requested by the technology leaders.

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