EXCLUSIVE: Passage of unconstitutional, discriminatory, anti-gay legislation leads one Georgia company to take a stand.
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Georgia state senators on Friday passed a highly-controversial bill that would enshrine into law special protections for people of faith who are opposed to same-sex marriage and LGBT people. Erroneously named the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), HB 757, according to legal experts, is likely unconstitutional and extends legal cover to both individuals and corporations – including taxpayer-funded non-profits – who wish to claim they have a sincerely held religious belief that prohibits them from serving LGBT people or same-sex couples.
The passage of the bill led at least one Georgia company to announce their intention to exit the Peach State.
373K is a telecom company based in Decatur, Georgia. Co-founder Kelvin Williams stands by the tweet and its message.
"I'm gay, our CFO is gay, we have people from every walk of life working here," Williams told The New Civil Rights Movement in a telephone interview Saturday afternoon.
"I've got Muslims, Buddhists, atheists here," he added. "We've got great Christians working for us. They've never thought of not serving anyone – that's not the message of Christ."
"We don't tolerate that crap," he said, explicitly, of discrimination.
Williams says the anti-gay bill is "not conducive for Georgia," lamenting that the "business environment in the state is not that great anyway."
"It's sad our state government wants to take us back in time," Williams says. "I wish Georgia would wake up."
"If you're not a white married Christian heterosexual, prepare to be persecuted," he warned.
Asked if he were concerned his tweet might lose business for his company, Williams said he doesn't care, and that he doesn't want to do business with those who support the legislation, whom he calls "fake Christians."
373K Client Relations Manager Brian Greene echoed the sentiment, telling The New Civil Rights Movement that "what's wrong is wrong and sometimes you have to take a stand."
He denounced "uninformed governing bodies continuing to act this way," adding he's "uncomfortable" with the environment manifested by the bill.
Asked if 373K were truly considering relocating, Greene says they're "definitely seriously considering" it, no longer feeling "comfortable" in "paying taxes to the State of Georgia."
The tweet and the sentiments behind it might come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with the national battle over anti-gay "religious freedom" bills, which many have labeled licenses to discriminate, but to those who remember the international attention a similar battle in Indiana drew last year, it doesn't.
The CEO of the $4 billion corporation SalesForce last year announced he was canceling "all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination," after another "religious freedom" bill passed and GOP Gov. Mike Pence said he would sign it into law.
Other companies around the nation expressed similar condemnation of Indiana's attempt to enshrine anti-gay discrimination into the law. Among them were Nike, Apple, Fortune 500 member Cummins, Eskenazi Health, Eli Lilly and Co., and NASCAR.
373K's Kelvin Williams says, "we're hoping Coca-Cola" takes similar steps in denouncing the legislation. The Coca-Cola Company, now 130 years old, is based in Atlanta, Georgia. On social media many have asked the $44 billion multi-national corporation to speak out.
Across Georgia, literally hundreds of top corporations that do business in the state are doing so, having signed the Georgia Prospers pledge.
"We believe that in order for Georgia businesses to compete for top talent," the pledge states in part, "we must have workplaces and communities that are diverse and welcoming for all people, no matter one’s race, sex, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity."
During debate on Friday, Democratic lawmakers warned their Republican colleagues who had fast-tracked HB 757 that the world is watching Georgia, and the anti-gay bill could cost the state millions in lost revenue from companies refusing to hold meetings and conventions there.
The bill passed by a huge majority, 38-14. The House, having already passed an earlier version of the bill will likely give it the thumbs up this coming week. GOP Gov. Nathan Deal hasn't said if he would sign it but chances are strong he will.
Image by Liz Flowers via Twitter