Dear Mr. Bezos…

Dear Mr. Bezos,

As Amazon continues the evaluation of finalist locations for a new HQ2, nine of the states currently under consideration have failed to address a glaring deficit — the lack of comprehensive legal protections for the LGBTQ population. The states are Florida, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

In fact, as you can see from the attached document, most have introduced additional discriminatory and stigmatizing legislation, while seeking to court Amazon. The LGBT community is constantly having to fight off a barrage of oppressive and dangerous legislation in these states. Placing HQ2 in one of these states would not only be morally wrong, but also inconsistent with your stated values. We are asking you to only consider states that would protect your LGBTQ workers, their families, and your customers.

In Amazon’s RFP that went out to cities, “Key Preferences Decision Drivers,” you outline the importance of a “Cultural Community Fit,” going on to say that the “project requires a compatible cultural and community environment for its long-term success. This includes the presence and support of a diverse population, excellent institutions of higher education, local government structure and elected officials eager and willing to work with the company, among other attributes. A stable and consistent business climate is important to Amazon.”

Businesses large and small know this to be true and are right to evaluate the treatment of LGBTQ citizens as they look to make investments across the country. As the author of The Rise of the Creative Class Richard Florida states, historically there has been a correlation between centers of innovation and high rates of economic growth, and a thriving gay and lesbian community.

Simply put, LGBT people are a vital part of a diverse and modern workforce, and failing to protect them and their families is bad for business. The other states that you are considering for HQ2 know this and have passed, and are proud of, these protections.

We support the actions of the tireless LGBTQ activists and advocacy organizations who are working in the states without protections, and who often face open hostility. We wholeheartedly endorse their efforts.

There are many individual cities that have taken positive steps, but the lack of statewide protections means that employees and their families could lose the most basic protections on their evening commutes.

Of course these states without basic protections say they welcome all of Amazon’s employees and the billions of dollars in accompanying economic investment. But talk is cheap. Amazon should demand that HQ2 states understand what a “cultural community fit” really means by fully protecting all LGBTQ workers, customers, and their families.

Regards,

Diane Abbitt
John Aravosis
Terry Bean
Jim Bennett
Roberta Bennett, Esq.
Jeremy Bernard
Elizabeth Birch
Mary Breslauer
Robby Browne
Sam Champion
Jane Clementi
Kate Clinton
Michelle Clunie
Bruce Cohen
Matt Coles
Chris Cormier Maggiano
Alan Cumming
Julie Dorf
James Dozier
Rabbi Denise L. Eger, D.D.
Sally Fisher
Blake Franklin
Neil Giuliano
Jeremy Glazer
Lynn Greer
Rodney G. Grozier
Patrick Guerriero
Aditi Hardikar
Dave Horwich
Lane Hudson
Amb. (ret.) David Huebner
Lorri L. Jean
Kevin Jennings
Barry Karas
Surina Khan
Fmr. U.S. Rep. Peter Kostmayer
Sharon Malheiro
Jeffrey Marcus
Terrence Meck
Bill Melamed
David Mixner
Aisha & Danielle Moodie-Mills
Charles Myers
Tom Prol
Christine Quinn
Gautam Raghavan
Philip Reitan
Randi Reitan
Matthew Rettenmund
Eric Sawyer
Joanne Schwartz
Todd Sears
Omar Sharif Jr.
Michael Silverman
Bill Smith
Marc Solomon
Peter Staley
Camilla Taylor
Andrew Tobias
Joy Tomchin
Jeff Trammell
Urvashi Vaid
Justin van Fleet
Joel Wachs
Bernard Whitman
Evan Wolfson
Peter Yacobellis

If you would wish to add your name to the letter, please email info@nogaynoway.com.

Negative Laws in States Without State-wide Protections

Of the 20 locations on Amazon’s shortlist for HQ2, nine are in states that not only noticeably lack comprehensive statewide non-discrimination protections, but have also introduced additional discriminatory and stigmatizing legislation, while seeking to court Amazon. The LGBT community is constantly having to fight off a barrage of oppressive and dangerous legislation in these states. Below is a summary of the anti-LGBT laws and recent legislative attempts to further discrimination.

Florida
Negative laws/policies on the books

  • Has a broad constitutional or statutory religious exemption law.
  • Criminalizes exposure and/or transmission of HIV.
  • State requires proof of gender confirmation surgery in order to change gender marker on Birth Certificate.

Two-Year History

  • Three anti-LGBT bills introduced in 2017, one passed. Three introduced in 2016, one passed.

2018

  • Two proposals to limit government’s ability to take action against businesses on the basis of freedom of expression/religion and or internal business policies (religious refusals).

2017

  • Two proposals to ban cities and counties from passing non-discrimination laws broader than state law.
  • Proposal (Passed) authorizes public school students and school personnel to express religious viewpoints and engage in certain religious activities without discrimination.

2016

  • Two proposals (one passed) to allow religious organizations and ministers to refuse to solemnize marriages or provide accommodations or facilities for any marriage that is inconsistent with the organization’s or minister’s sincerely held religious beliefs.
  • Proposal to permit health care facilities to refuse to deliver medical treatment, religious organizations to refuse to deliver a product or service, and private adoption agencies to refuse to place a child if such actions would be contrary to religious or moral convictions of those entities.

Georgia
Negative laws/policies on the books

  • Has a law that prevents Medicaid coverage for transgender people.
  • Criminalizes exposure and/or transmission of HIV.
  • Has strict requirements (surgery or court order) for transgender people to get their gender marker changed on license and birth certificate.
  • State law requires public announcement of name change.

Two-Year History

2018

  • Two proposals to revise the Georgia adoption code, and in part, would grant a religious exemption to tax payer funded child welfare agencies to refuse placing children with LGBT individuals and families.
  • Proposal to require the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act apply to the state and its political subdivisions.

2017

  • Proposal to revise the Georgia adoption code, and, in part, would grant a religious exemption to tax payer funded child welfare agencies to refuse placing children with LGBT individuals and families.
  • Proposal to require the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act apply to the state and its political subdivisions.

2016

  • Proposal to allow businesses to refuse to sell goods or services directly to a religious organization or for a religious or matrimonial ceremony in violation of the seller’s constitutional right to free exercise of religion.
  • Proposal to create the Free Exercise Protection Act, which would allow religious officials to refuse to perform religious ceremonies in violation of their right to free exercise of religion. The bill would also allow faith-based organization to refuse to provide social, educational, or charitable services, or hire an individual.
  • Two proposals to create the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would create a private right of action for anyone whose free exercise of religion was violated or burdened. The bill would also eliminate the defense of sovereign immunity for the government in an action brought by someone whose free exercise of religion was violated or burdened.
  • Proposal to prohibit the government from taking “discriminatory action,” or legal action, against person who believes, speaks, or acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such marriage.
  • Proposal to authorize public school students and school personnel to express religious viewpoints and engage in certain religious activities without discrimination
  • Proposal to create the Preventing Government Overreach on Religious Expression Act, which would prevent the government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion “even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability” unless the burden is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of achieving that interest. The bill would also provide for a private right of action for an individual whose exercise of religion was burdened.

Indiana
Negative laws/policies on the books

  • Has a broad constitutional or statutory religious exemption law.
  • Criminalizes exposure and/or transmission of HIV.
  • State law requires public announcement of name change.

Two-Year History

2018

  • No anti-LGBT proposals as of February 2018.

2017

  • Proposal to prohibit an individual from changing the gender on their birth certificate or permanent record.

2016

  • Proposal to define the right to worship, the right to free exercise, the right to freedom of thought and speech, the right of assemblage and petition, and the right to bear arms as “fundamental rights.” It would also restrict the ability of the government to enforce laws of general applicability that substantially burden a person’s fundamental rights.
  • Two proposals to expand existing non-discrimination protections in housing, education, public accommodations, employment, credit, and public contracts to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and military active duty status. However, the bill also provides a religious exemption to “religious or religiously affiliated organization[s]” from following the provisions concerning sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Two proposals to require that student facilities in school buildings must be designated for use by female students or male students and may be used only by the students of the biological sex for which the facility is designated.

North Carolina
Negative laws/policies on the books

  • Has targeted religious exemption for state and local officials providing marriage licenses.
  • Criminalizes exposure and/or transmission of HIV.
  • State requires proof of gender confirmation surgery, court order, and/or amended birth certificate in order to change gender marker on license/state ID and Birth Certificate.

Two-Year History

2018

  • No anti-LGBT proposals as of February 2018.

2017

  • Proposal (passed, signed) to prohibit state agencies, boards, offices, departments, institutions, branches of government, including The University of North Carolina and the North Carolina Community College System, and political subdivisions of the state, including local boards of education, from enacting regulations or laws addressing gender-segregated facilities.
  • Proposal to repeal a preemption statute regarding nondiscrimination ordinances, however, the protected classes do not include sexual orientation or gender identity.

2016

  • Proposal (passed, signed, replaced in 2017) to bar people in North Carolina from using multiple-occupancy bathrooms, lockers rooms, and other such facilities that do not match their biological sex. Furthermore, the law declares that the provisions of this law and other state laws supersede all other municipal ordinances, regulations, resolutions, and policies regarding discriminatory practices in places of public accommodation.
  • Two proposals to restrict the ability of the government to enforce laws of general applicability that burden a person’s religious liberty.

Ohio
Negative laws/policies on the books

  • State Medicaid policy explicitly excludes transgender health coverage and care.
  • State explicitly excludes transition-related healthcare in their state employee health benefits.
  • Criminalizes exposure and/or transmission of HIV.
  • State does not allow for amending the gender marker on the birth certificate.

Two-Year History

2018

  • No anti-LGBT proposals as of February 2018.

2017

  • Proposal to create a two-year statute of limitation to file a claim of unlawful discriminatory employment practice. (Currently there is a six-year limitation).

2016

  • Proposal to restate First Amendment protections for clergy from having to perform marriage ceremonies against their religious convictions, but it also allows for religious organizations to refuse to allow space same-sex marriages, regardless of whether that space is publicly available.
  • Proposal to allow any business to refuse to participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony if it conflicts with their religious belief.
  • Proposal to take away a board of education’s power to limit exercise of a student’s religious beliefs to a lunch period or free periods.

Pennsylvania
Negative laws/policies on the books

  • Has a broad constitutional or statutory religious exemption law.
  • Criminalizes exposure and/or transmission of HIV.

Two-Year History

2018

  • Proposal to prohibit certain benefit packages for children’s health care and medical assistance to include gender or gender confirmation surgery or gender or sex transition services.

2017

  • Proposal to specify that any individual or institution providing medical services cannot be required to perform or participate in activities that violate his or her conscience or principles.
  • Proposal to require school districts to adopt a limited public forum, allowing student speakers to express religious viewpoints at school events.

2016

  • Proposal to require school districts to adopt a limited open forum, allowing student speakers to express religious viewpoints at school events.
  • Proposal to specify that any individual or institution providing medical services cannot be required to perform or participate in activities that violate his or her conscience or principles.

Tennessee
Negative laws/policies on the books

  • Bans cities and counties from passing non-discrimination laws.
  • Has a broad constitutional or statutory religious exemption law.
  • Has targeted religious exemptions for medical professionals.
  • State Medicaid policy explicitly excludes transgender health coverage and care.
  • Explicitly excludes transgender inclusive health benefits for state employees.
  • Criminalizes exposure and/or transmission of HIV.
  • State does not allow for amending the gender marker on the birth certificate.
  • State requires proof of gender confirmation surgery, court order, and/or amended birth certificate in order to change gender marker on license/state ID.

Two-Year History

  • Thirteen anti-LGBT bills introduced in 2017, one passed. Seventeen introduced in 2016, two passed.

2018

  • Proposal to limit government’s ability to take action against businesses on the basis of freedom of expression/religion and or internal business policies (religious refusals).
  • Proposal to requires students in public schools and public institutions of higher education to use restrooms and locker rooms that are assigned to persons of the same sex as that shown on the students’ birth certificates.

2017

  • Four proposals (one passed and signed) to require that undefined terms, such as “wife,” “husband,” “mother,” and “father” be defined using their “natural” meaning and understanding.
  • Two proposals to allow individuals, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to circumvent state and city nondiscrimination law.
  • Two proposals to create the “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act” defining marriage as only consisting of the union between one man and one woman.
  • Proposal to allow the state to adopt ethical standards or a code of ethics of care for counselors, provided the standards do not require the counselor to serve a client that conflicts with the counselor’s sincerely held religious belief.
  • Two proposals to require schools to prevent individuals from using gender-segregated facilities not in accordance with their sex at birth.

2016

  • Two resolutions (one passed and signed) expressing the state’s disagreement with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.
  • Two proposals to create the “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act” defining marriage as only consisting of the union between one man and one woman.
  • Two proposals to prohibit state and local governments from enforcing, administering, or cooperating with the implementation, regulation, or enforcement of any federal executive order or U.S. supreme court opinion unless the state legislature first adopts it as state public policy.
  • Two proposals to limit the persons who may solemnize marriage to ministers, pastors, rabbis, priests, and other spiritual leaders.
  • Two proposals (one passed and signed) to allow counselors and therapists to refuse to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with the sincerely held principles of the counselor or therapist.
  • Two proposals to implement the Religious Freedom Restoration Act for Tennessee.
  • Two proposals to require public schools and institutes of higher learning to ensure that students use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with the sex indicated on their birth certificate.

Texas
Negative laws/policies on the books

  • Has a broad constitutional or statutory religious exemption law.
  • Has targeted religious exemptions for child welfare services.
  • Has a No Promo Homo law barring/explicitly restricting educators from discussing LGBT people or issues in schools.
  • Criminalizes exposure and/or transmission of HIV.
  • State requires proof of gender confirmation surgery, court order, and/or amended birth certificate in order to change gender marker on license/state ID.

Two-Year History

  • Thirty-three anti-LGBT bills introduced in 2017, three passed. Twenty-three were introduced in 2015 (session is every two years)

2018

  • N/A, due to no session in 2018.

2017

  • Proposal (passed and signed) to provide a religious carve out that may be used as an affirmative defense where a pharmacist refuses to provide a particular prescription drug or follow standard procedure because doing so would violate their religious beliefs.
  • Proposal (passed and signed) to allow child placement agencies to discriminate in foster or adoption placements based on their religious views.
  • Seven proposals to prevent municipalities enacting non-discrimination laws with provisions broader than those in state law.
  • Three proposals to require schools to prevent individuals from using gender-segregated facilities not in accordance with their sex at birth.
  • Five proposals to allow the county clerk and/or other government employees to defer and/or deny marriage license certification in the event of a sincerely held religious belief.
  • Five proposals to allow for discrimination in healthcare.

2016

  • N/A Legislature meets every other year.

Virginia
Negative laws/policies on the books

  • Has a broad constitutional or statutory religious exemption law.
  • Has targeted religious exemptions for child welfare services.
  • Explicitly excludes transgender inclusive health benefits for state employees.
  • Criminalizes exposure and/or transmission of HIV.
  • State requires proof of gender confirmation surgery in order to change gender marker on birth certificate.

Two-Year History

2018

  • No anti-LGBT proposals as of February 2018.

2017

  • Proposal (Passed, then Vetoed) to allow taxpayer-funded organizations like homeless shelters and adoption agencies to refuse service to same-sex couples, transgender people, and anyone suspected of having intimate relationships outside of a heterosexual marriage without losing taxpayer funding, contracts, licensing, or other forms of state recognition.
  • Proposal to restrict the ability of the government to enforce laws of general applicability that substantially burden a person’s religious liberty.
  • Two proposals to require schools, public buildings, and businesses, to prevent individuals from using gender segregated facilities not in accordance with their sex at birth.
  • Proposal to provide an exemption to public contractors from complying with non-discrimination law on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

2016

  • Proposal to allow County Clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses if such clerk has an objection to the issuance of such license on personal, ethical, moral, or religious grounds.
  • Proposal to allow individuals or organizations to refuse to participate in a same-sex marriage, without fear of civil liability, if the union was against their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.
  • Proposal to ban any political subdivision of the commonwealth, including a locality or school board, from passing expanded non-discrimination laws/regulations.
  • Proposal to amend the Code of Virginia to define “sex” for discriminatory purposes to mean biological sex.
  • Proposal to prevent individuals from using public gender segregated facilities under control of the commonwealth, not in accordance with their sex at birth.
  • Proposal to prevent transgender people from having the ability to change their Birth Certificate’s gender marker.
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