Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff to be honored for LGBT advocacy
By Marissa Lang, staff writer, SF Chronicle
Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
National LGBT advocacy organization GLAAD announced Tuesday that it would honor Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff at its annual gala for his efforts to fight state laws meant to curtail the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Benioff began his crusade against anti-LGBT laws in 2015 by helping to organize a boycott that cost Indiana more than $60 million in revenue after Gov. Mike Pence — who is now the Republican vice presidential candidate — signed what was known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would have allowed businesses in the state to cite religion in their refusal to provide services to gay people.
GLAAD will recognize Benioff with an award named after Ric Weiland, one of the first five Microsoft employees and a lifelong philanthropist who was an active part of the gay community and supported several LGBT and AIDS organizations.
“Marc Benioff is an innovator not just in technology and business, but also in his advocacy to advance acceptance for the LGBT community,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “He is at the forefront of the corporate movement to stop discriminatory anti-LGBT bills across the country and his commitment to fairness and equality is steadfast.”
Benioff became one of the most vocal opponents of the law and leveraged a $40 million investment to push Pence and the Indiana Legislature to soften the language of the bill. The state amended its law to prevent it from superseding local ordinances that protect LGBT people from discrimination.
At the unveiling of Salesforce’s new tower in Indianapolis, Benioff tweeted that the building known as Chase Tower, where Salesforce leases about 250,000 square feet, should be renamed Equality Tower.
“A tribute to equality for all,” he wrote.
Earlier this year, Benioff used his clout — and his checkbook — to push back against similar anti-LGBT legislation in Georgia and North Carolina.
In March, Benioff led the charge in putting pressure on Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who was hesitating to sign a bill that would have allowed organizations and individuals the right to deny employment, services or use of facilities to others based on religious belief or practices. After Salesforce, Netflix, the National Football League and several national conferences threatened to move their operations elsewhere, Deal vetoed the bill.
Benioff has also been a vocal supporter of other companies that have spoken out against anti-LGBT legislation like PayPal. The San Jose company said in April it would cancel a multimillion-dollar global operations center in North Carolina and relocate more than 400 jobs over a new state law which made it illegal for cities to extend nondiscrimination protections to LGBT people and insisted transgender people use public restrooms based on their sex at birth.
Nearly 20 states considered similar laws this year. And more than ever before, corporations like Salesforce have been taking hard-line stances on social issues and LGBT rights.
“When people look at the tech industry, they see innovators and leaders, and when it comes to issues like this, the spotlight is definitely on us,” Salesforce operations manager Gino Ramos told The Chronicle. “Being from the Bay Area, you understand that people aren’t all the same, and it’s important to make sure that equality for all really is the law of the land.”
Benioff will receive his award at GLAAD’s San Francisco gala in September.
Originally published at www.sfgate.com.