U.S. corporations should abandon plans to expand operations or sponsor events in states that enact anti-LGBTQ legislation, said Alphonso David, president of the nation's leading LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
The call for a major escalation of corporate activism comes amid a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation in Republican-controlled state legislatures, and follows a controversy set off by Major League Baseball in April when it moved its All-Star game from Georgia to protest a new law that critics contend suppresses minority votes.
Speaking to Yahoo Finance, David praised more than 100 companies that have publicly opposed the rash of anti-LGBTQ laws but said effective opposition requires "more engagement" from corporate America.
"We're asking corporate leaders," he says. "Well, you support your corporate values, certainly support LGBTQ equality in most cases."
"If that is the case, then we're asking you to not expand your operations in those states that are anti-LGBTQ," he says. "We're asking you not to sponsor events in those states that are enacting anti-LGBTQ legislation."
Anti-LGBTQ legislation is being drafted at a record clip with more than 250 bills introduced across at least 33 states. According to HRC, this year has surpassed 2015 “as the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history."
At least 18 bills, ranging from preventing transgender girls from playing sports to erasing transgender people from school curricula, have been signed into law across nine states — Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Florida.
'We certainly need more engagement'
So far, 132 companies — among them Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG, GOOGL), Amazon (AMZN), American Airlines (AAL), Marriott (MAR), Nike (NKE), AT&T (T) and Pepsi (PEP) — have voiced their opposition to the anti-LGBTQ bills in a letter written in partnership with HRC.
David acknowledged that the number of signees falls well short of the total number of U.S. businesses with at least 500 employees, which he estimated amounts to some 20,000 companies.
"So we certainly need more engagement," says David, who joined HRC two years ago after serving as chief counsel to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Business boycotts have been deployed before to oppose anti-LGBTQ legislation, most notably in the fight against a law enacted by North Carolina in 2016 that banned individuals from using a bathroom that does not match their birth sex. In response to the law, Deutsche Bank (DB) and PayPal (PYPL) canceled plans to expand in the state; and performers like Bruce Springsteen and Demi Lovato called off shows.
The North Carolina legislature passed a partial repeal of the law in 2017, but LGBTQ advocates continue to demand a full repeal.
David called on corporations to take a similarly active role in persuading state lawmakers to abandon the current slate of anti-LGBTQ legislation.
"We're asking you to engage with us in talking to elected officials to make sure they understand the significant negative collateral consequences that these bills are having on their employees, on their employees, families on their consumers," he says.
"In our efforts to educate the elected officials, corporations can really be helpful to us," he adds. "Many have working behind the scenes and engaging with us to educate elected officials as to the harm of these bills."