On the Right Side of History

An open letter to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal

Dear Governor Deal,

Please veto HB 757.

I was born in Georgia and have lived here my whole life. My family is from here and this is my home. The State of Georgia has been good to me. I received a world-class college education at Georgia Tech — largely funded by a HOPE scholarship — which I have parlayed into a successful career in software engineering.

For the past several years I worked for Salesforce.com. I had many opportunities and some outright requests to move to the San Francisco Bay Area to be closer to my employer, but I turned them all down. I was proud to funnel some of the riches of Silicon Valley back into my home state and to resist the “brain drain” that affects the tech industry in most other parts of the country.

My co-workers in California often questioned my choice to stay here. As a political progressive, Georgia is not the easiest place to defend. I often find myself at odds with the political majority, but I love the people, the soul, and the natural beauty of this state, and I have decided to stay here and fight for my ideals.

Last summer I started a new company, Convox, with two of my friends. Through hard work and a bit of luck we were accepted to Y Combinator, a highly exclusive and world-renowned startup incubator based in Mountain View, California. My cofounder and I moved there for 3 months last summer, completed the program, and successfully raised seed funding for our business. Again, we received immense pressure from our advisors and investors to relocate to California.

I’m proud to have resisted that pressure, but honestly it keeps getting harder and harder. I’m writing to you today to ask for help. When I talk to people in other places about Georgia, I want to do it from a place of pride, not a place of shame.

I take great pride in the progress we have made as a state (and Atlanta has made as a city) in the past several decades. The “city too busy to hate” is a beacon of opportunity in a region that can sometimes be hostile to minorities. My neighborhood of midtown Atlanta has long been considered a sanctuary for my Southern LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

Please consider the magnitude of your decision on HB 757 in this context. You alone have the power to forge ahead, continuing to bend our arc of history towards justice. Or you can decide to yield to an extremist, vocal minority and take a painful step backwards.

Despite its supporters’ claims to the contrary, HB 757 is not a bill that seeks to expand freedom. It seeks to legalize discrimination, to legitimize hate, ignorance, and fear through the machinations of the state.

I could tell you that legislation like this makes it much more difficult for my fledgling business to hire, sell, and succeed in Georgia, but I’m sure this request from my little 5-person startup is barely noticeable amongst the cacophony of pleas now coming from heavy hitters in the tech, sports and entertainment industries.

Signing HB 757 would be a huge blow to Georgia’s businesses, but more importantly, it would be damaging to Georgia’s citizens. Our LGBTQ brothers and sisters find life scary and difficult enough without the government that’s supposed to represent them actively undermining their existence. They need our love and support, not our scorn.

Please don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is a dispute between Christians and everyone else. I took the picture at the top of this letter while walking to dinner on Peachtree Street last night. Intolerance is not a Christian value, and mainstream Christians don’t support this kind of legislation.

Please choose to be on the right side of history. Please choose love, compassion, tolerance, inclusiveness, and progress for Georgia.

Please veto HB 757.

Sincerely,

Matthew W. Manning

Local Business Owner and Lifelong Georgian