Georgia Brands Stand Up For Equality

The Georgia state Senate just passed two “religious freedom” bills, which would allow people to deny services and basic rights available to the general public if the customer or employee is gay, unmarried, or in any way offends anyone on any level.

The proposed bills would:

• Allow individuals and private organizations to claim an imposition on their religious freedoms to make decisions otherwise protected by current law. For instance, both of these bills would allow employers to discriminate against potential employees based on current protected legal statuses — like race, sex, age, pregnancy, nationality and even religion under the guise of protecting the employer’s religious freedom.

• The legislation is tailored in a way to limit some of our most basic protections — including access to birth control for women and protection from state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT individuals.

In an action alert sent out last week, Georgia Equality said:

These bills could allow:

-An employer to fire a woman who remarried after a divorce or who is pregnant and not married.
-A person whose religion demands pacifism and non-violence to refuse to rent an apartment to a tenant who owns a gun.
-The owner of a sandwich shop to refuse to serve a gay customer.
-A healthcare worker to refuse a woman a prescribed medication.
-A counselor be exempted from state required licensing requirements

The bill has been met with some public support and and a great deal of criticism from others, including some of Georgia’s largest employers.

Delta Air Lines issued a statement against bills like HB 1023 and a similar bill recently passed in Arizona:1000px-Delta_logo.svg

“As a global values based company, Delta Air Lines is proud of the diversity of its customers and employees, and is deeply concerned about proposed measures in several states, including Georgia and Arizona, that would allow businesses to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. If passed into law, these proposals would cause significant harm to many people and will result in job losses.”

InterContinental Hotels Group, a multinational hotels company with brands including InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Hotel Indigo and more, came out strongly against the anti-gay bills being considered in Georgia and Arizona.

InterContinental_Hotels_Group.svgPer a press release the company said:

“IHG is a global hospitality company that prides itself on the diversity of its guests, employees and business partners in nearly 100 countries. Celebrating differences is one of IHG’s core values and an integral part of IHG’s culture. IHG has regularly voiced support for equal treatment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. As a result, we are concerned by proposed legislation in a number of states that would allow businesses to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender guests and customers. The negative effects of these proposals, if passed into law, would be wide-reaching and significant for both businesses and individuals. IHG opposes these proposals and adds its voice to those urging state officials to reject them.”

I recently shared some research showing that Millennials support LGBT rights and they want brands to support the causes they care about.

This kind of brand involvement from Delta and IHG has not only created goodwill among the Millennial customer, but it looks like it may actually help quash these anti-gay bills in the House.
If brands truly want to create personal connections with their customers, they should follow the lead of Delta and IHG and proactively support the issues the most sought-after demographic cares about. And, I personally say kudos to Delta and IHG for standing on principle. It’s a great thing to see.



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