Tech execs take stand against North Carolina transgender law

A growing number of CEOs, including Apple's Tim Cook, push for repeal of a law they say promotes discrimination against the LGBT community.

Terry Collins Staff Reporter, CNET News
Terry writes about social networking giants and legal issues in Silicon Valley for CNET News. He joined CNET News from the Associated Press, where he spent the six years covering major breaking news in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before the AP, Terry worked at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Kansas City Star. Terry's a native of Chicago.
Terry Collins
3 min read

More than 90 business executives, including the CEOs of Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Salesforce.com, are speaking out against a recently passed North Carolina law they say could be used to discriminate against people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

In a letter Tuesday, the business leaders pushed Gov. Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal the law. The petition, organized by the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights group, says the law is particularly discriminatory toward transgender students because it forces them to use school toilets "inconsistent with their gender identity."

Apple CEO Tim Cook is among 90 executives protesting a North Carolina law.

James Martin

The new law doesn't reflect "the values of our companies, of our country, or even the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians," the letter reads, which was also signed by the heads of Google, IBM, Microsoft, PayPal, Airbnb, Yahoo, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Yelp and even Hollywood moguls Harvey and Bob Weinstein. More than 80 executives signed the statement Tuesday with another 10 joining on Wednesday. They include the CEOs of Uber and Bank of America, which has its corporate headquarters based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

"This is not a direction in which states move when they are seeking to provide successful, thriving hubs for business and economic development," the executives' letter said. "Discrimination is wrong and we believe it has no place in North Carolina or anywhere in the country."

The commentary from some of America's most influential executives came a day after a federal lawsuit was filed in North Carolina challenging the new law. Two transgender people and a law professor who is lesbian, claim the law violates the US Constitution. They also argue the law makes North Carolina the first state requiring public school and university students to only use bathrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates, a violation of Title IX, the federal civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination in education.

McCrory's office issued a statement Monday and said that "governor respects the right of any legal challenges." Yet, he was critical of groups as well as state and national media for what he described as "continued distortion of the facts."

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is named in the lawsuit and also running for governor, said Tuesday that his office won't be defending the constitutionality of the new law, calling it "a national embarrassment."

On Monday, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said he would veto anti-LGBT legislation in his state after hearing from a loud chorus of civil rights advocates and companies.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, who came out as gay after taking charge of the giant consumer electronics company, was among the executives signing Tuesday's statement against North Carolina's law. He has previously spoken out against anti-LGBT legislation.

Last March, Cook, along with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and more than 100 tech executives, criticized laws in Indiana and Arkansas as threatening to "allow people to discriminate against their neighbors." The following month, lawmakers in both of those states bowed to pressure and amended their "religious freedom" laws.

Updated March 30 at 10 a.m. PT: Added 10 more business executives have signed the letter.