16 ‘Pro-LGBT’ Businesses That Operate in Countries With Poor Human Rights Records
Mariana Barillas / Kristiana Mork /
Big corporations have come out to criticize state religious liberty measures in Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina as discriminating against those who aren’t heterosexual, some going as far as to propose boycotting states that enact such laws.
However, several of the most vocal companies that say they stand with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans also operate in countries with troubling human rights records, including places where homosexuality can result in a death sentence, a review by The Daily Signal shows.
Details on the fate of the measures in Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina are below. The following is a list of 16 corporations that publicly attacked religious liberty measures in one or more of the three states, yet do business in countries that blatantly and sometimes brutally discriminate against LGBT citizens or otherwise have a poor record of defending human rights:
Unilever CEO Paul Polman tweeted that many businesses would boycott Georgia if its HB 757 religious liberty bill were signed by the governor:
The multinational corporation earned top marks by the Human Rights Campaign, one of the nation’s most influential gay rights groups, in what it calls its 2016 Corporate Equality Index for LGBT Workplace Equality.
However, Unilever North Africa Middle East has production facilities in countries such as Tunisia and Algeria. A 2015 report by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association indicates that those countries make homosexual activity illegal.
Unilever did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith tweeted that he supported opposition to Georgia’s HB 757.
The tech giant complies with government search engine censorship policies in China, according to Human Rights Watch. Microsoft and other search engine companies argue that just by operating within the borders of the communist state, they make China freer.
A corporate document describes freedom of expression as a fundamental right, but states “restrictions on free expression and privacy should only be imposed where necessary, narrowly tailored and provided for by law—and we are opposed to restrictions on peaceful political expression.”
Microsoft did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich tweeted in opposition to the Georgia bill:
Intel has partnered with the Vietnamese government to develop education, environment, and “digital inclusion programs.” Human Rights Watch describes Vietnam as a one-party communist state that “bans all independent political parties, labor unions, and human rights organizations.”
Like Microsoft, Intel says it bases its human rights policies on United Nations standards to “avoid complicity in human right violations related to our own operations, our supply chain, and our products.”
Intel did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
4. Live Nation
Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino voiced his opposition to the Georgia bill on Twitter.
After rock musicians Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams canceled shows in protest of recently enacted religious liberty laws, Live Nation said in a statement regarding the North Carolina legislation that it “supports our artists’ efforts to take a stand against this exclusionary and unfair law.”
Live Nation’s corporate website says it celebrates diversity, “ensuring all our work environments are those in which people are free to be themselves and celebrate what makes them great.” However, the international conglomerate hosts events and manages venues in countries, including the United Arab Emirates, which prohibit homosexual behavior.
Live Nation did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
5. The Weinstein Co.
The big film studio threatened to move production of its Richard Pryor biopic out of Georgia if HB 757 were enacted.
The company’s 2015 film “No Escape” also was filmed in Thailand, a country that Human Rights Watch argues is in the midst of a “deepening human rights crisis” after a military coup in 2014. “No Escape” was released there only after censorship boards were put into place to approve all films shown in Thailand.
Human Rights Watch says Thailand’s current government has “banned political activity and peaceful public gatherings; criminalized freedom of expression; made hundreds of arbitrary arrests; and held detainees in incommunicado military detention without safeguards against abuses.”
The Weinstein Co. did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
6. AMC Networks Inc.
AMC Networks Inc., which films the hit television show “The Walking Dead” in Georgia, opposed HB 757. A spokesman told the Los Angeles Times that “discrimination of any kind is reprehensible.”
“We applaud Governor [Nathan] Deal’s leadership in resisting a previous version of this divisive legislation and urge him to reject the current version as well,” the spokesman said.
AMC broadcasts in Russia, which drew international attention after it enacted a gay “propaganda” law in 2013. A Human Rights report noted an increase in violence and harassment against LGBT citizens in Russia.
AMC Networks Inc. did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
7. Time Warner
Time Warner opposed Georgia’s religious liberty bill, arguing in a statement that the measure “violates the values and principles of inclusion and the ability of all people to live and work free from discrimination.”
Time Warner has expanded its entertainment empire into Singapore, a country that bans homosexual activity, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association report.
Time Warner did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
8. The Walt Disney Co.
The Walt Disney Co. and its subsidiary Marvel Entertainment proposed to boycott Georgia over HB 757.
A company spokesman said, “Disney and Marvel are inclusive companies, and although we have had great experiences filming in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law.”
The Walt Disney Co. continues to expand into China—including investing $5.5 billion for a theme park in Shanghai. Human Rights Watch says the communist state has “no law protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The Walt Disney Co. did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
9. General Electric Co.
The letter claims the law’s use of “religion to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Mississippians” does not reflect the “values of our companies.”
GE does business in Saudi Arabia, a country that criminalizes homosexual behavior. In 2014, a Saudi Arabian man was sentenced to three years in jail and 450 lashes for using Twitter to arrange to meet other men.
A GE corporate spokeswoman told The Daily Signal that the company has “zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind, and oppose laws permitting discrimination, including those based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”
10. The Coca-Cola Co.
The Coca-Cola Co., based in Atlanta, opposed the state’s religious liberty legislation.
Coca-Cola North America President Sandy Douglas signed a letter condemning the bill proposed in the company’s home state. Douglas then signed another one to Mississippi political leaders, arguing that the state’s recently enacted bill, HB 1523, did not reflect the “values of our companies” by using “religion to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Mississippians.”
In 2006, Coca-Cola’s bottling plants were accused of interfering with irrigation in regions in India and Latin America experiencing water scarcity. More recently, Coca-Cola reevaluated its sugar supply chain after accusations it was benefiting from unethical land seizures. Its website lists diversity, protecting local land rights, and sustainability as core values.
Coca-Cola did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
PayPal CEO Dan Schulman announced that the online-payments firm would abandon plans for a new global operations center in Charlotte, N.C.
North Carolina’s “bathroom law,” known as HB2, “perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture,” Schulman said.
The decision, he said, “reflects PayPal’s deepest values and our strong belief that every person has the right to be treated equally, and with dignity and respect.”
PayPal continues to offer services in Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, and other countries where homosexuality may be punished with the death penalty, and in Nigeria, where homosexual conduct may be punished with caning, imprisonment, or death by stoning.
PayPal did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
After Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the legislation, Salesforce said it looks forward to “growing both our team and investments in Georgia—including hosting thousands of customers, partners, and employees at our Salesforce Connections event in Atlanta on May 10-12th.”
Meenakshi Ganguly, Human Rights Watch’s South Asia director, wrote that India’s penal code section 377 “reinforced the idea that discrimination and other mistreatment of LGBT people was acceptable in Indian society.”
The United Nations’ Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization reported that in India, “students who do not conform to gender norms were more likely to suffer from violence in education settings than other ‘sexual minorities.’”
Salesforce did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
13. Apple Inc.
Apple Inc. opposed Mississippi’s religious liberty bill. The technology giant said the measure, titled the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, “empowers discrimination.”
Apple also opposed North Carolina’s bill. The company said: “Our future as Americans should be focused on inclusion and prosperity, and not discrimination and division. We were disappointed to see Governor [Pat] McCrory sign this legislation.”
An Apple subsidiary, Apple Computer Trading (Shanghai) Co. Ltd., is located in China—where the government in its Xinjiang region justifies “pervasive ethnic discrimination, severe religious repression, and increasing cultural suppression” in the name of the “‘fight against separatism, religious extremism, and terrorism,’” according to Human Rights Watch.
Apple did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
14. The National Basketball Association
The NBA said it isn’t sure the effect North Carolina’s religious freedom measure will have on its plans to host next year’s All-Star Game in the state.
“We are deeply concerned that this discriminatory law runs counter to our guiding principles of equality and mutual respect and do not yet know what impact it will have on our ability to successfully host the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte,” the NBA said, adding: “The NBA is dedicated to creating an inclusive environment for all who attend our games and events.”
In August, the NBA hosted an exhibition game in South Africa.
The U.N. Committee on Human Rights wrote in a report of its concern about South Africa because of “numerous manifestations of racism and xenophobia, including violent attacks against foreign nationals and migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, resulting in deaths, injuries, displacement and property destruction” and other human rights violations.
The NBA did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
Netflix, the world’s leading Internet television network, threatened to move production if Georgia’s governor signed the bill.
“Netflix is an inclusive company,” a Netflix spokeswoman said, Deadline reported.
“We recently completed two films and a series in Georgia and had planned on filming two series there in the coming months,” Netflix said. “Should any legislation allowing discriminatory practice be signed into state law, we will move our productions elsewhere.”
The Netflix website says it offers services to every country except China, North Korea, Syria, and Crimea.
Libya, home to violations of international law that “may amount to war crimes and other international crimes under international law” is among the many nations that do receive Netflix.
Netflix did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
Sony called the Georgia bill “anathema to our studio and to all those who value diversity and inclusion” and added: “We strongly urge Governor Deal to exercise his veto.”
Breitbart News reported that Sony signed a pledge to boycott Georgia over the measure there.
The media giant has an office in Kazakhstan, where Amnesty International reports that “impunity for torture and other ill-treatment [remain] largely unchallenged” and “freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly [continue] to be restricted.”
Human Rights Watch reports that LGBT citizens in Kazakhstan face a climate of fear “stoked both by the abuses and discrimination they face directly, as well as abuse and discrimination when they try to report rights violations to authorities.”
Sony did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
Drawing the most attention in recent weeks were religious liberty bills in Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant early this month signed a bill into law to protect “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions,” allowing businesses to decline participation in same-sex marriages and to determine who gets access to facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory last month signed a measure, known as HB2, requiring individuals to use public restrooms that correspond to their biological sex. McCrory, a Republican, later issued a clarifying executive order “to protect privacy and equality” after receiving a national backlash from some quarters.
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“After listening to people’s feedback for the past several weeks on this issue, I have come to the conclusion that there is a great deal of misinformation, misinterpretation, confusion, a lot of passion and frankly, selective outrage and hypocrisy, especially against the great state of North Carolina,” McCrory said, according to CNN. “But based upon this feedback, I am taking action to affirm and improve the state’s commitment to privacy and equality.”
Deal, a Republican, also resisted a previous version of the law, saying he would reject any measure that “allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith.”
A summary of the final version states it was designed to ensure the protection of religious liberty, including a provision that allowed faith-based organizations to choose not to employ those who hold contrary beliefs.
Deal said in an April 12 interview that supporters of reviving the legislation must carefully consider whether they wish the state to become embroiled again in national controversy.
“It’s time to take another deep breath. I see what’s happening in North Carolina. I see what’s happening in Mississippi,” he said, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And I would hope that many of the ones that are pushing for it would not want the state of Georgia to go through that kind of scenario.”
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