Protesters head into the Legislative building for a sit-in against House Bill 2 — a Republican-backed law curtailing protections for LGBT people and limiting public bathroom access for transgender people — on April 25 in Raleigh, N.C. (Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer via AP)

San Francisco business won’t tolerate hateful policies

San Francisco has a rich history of inclusiveness, and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, now in our 166th year, has helped build The City not only into a global economic force, but has also contributed to a culture where businesses value and respect their employees.

At the S.F. Chamber, we work on a daily basis as advocates for the business community. Now we’re proud to recognize how the business community is leveraging its influence to fight discriminatory policies in other states.

The latest is the legislation in North Carolina, which prohibits transgender people from using a bathroom that doesn’t match the biological sex listed on an individual’s birth certificate. The law trumps local law and prevents cities from passing their own non-discrimination ordinances, thus making citizens vulnerable to discrimination in hiring, firing and public accommodation.

It fundamentally goes against the values we celebrate in San Francisco. Every individual deserves the right to work in a place that values and respects all people.

At first, the legislation, passed at warp speed in special session, didn’t give opponents much time to rally against it. But since North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed it into law six weeks ago, there has been a tidal wave of criticism, and the Bay Area business community has taken a leading role in the chorus of opponents calling for its repeal.

More than 100 business leaders recently signed a letter circulated by the Human Rights Campaign asking Gov. McCrory to repeal the law, stating it does not reflect “the values of our companies, of our country, or even the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians … This is not a direction in which states move when they are seeking to provide successful, thriving hubs for business and economic development.”

Many of our members signed onto the Human Rights Campaign’s letter, and we at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce are proud to stand behind them. Airbnb, Target, Williams-Sonoma, Oracle, Wells Fargo, Visa, Google, United Airlines, Ernst &Young, Salesforce, American Express and KPMG are just a few of our members fighting against this discriminatory legislation.

Our business community is not alone in taking this stand. Mayor Ed Lee led the nation as the first to ban any publicly funded city-employee travel to the state that is not absolutely essential to public health and safety. Many other mayors have since followed suit, taking similar action.

Businesses need to stand up for their employees. This isn’t only about motivating the governor of North Carolina to change its laws. It’s about protecting our own San Francisco residents from a state that discriminates against them. The private sector plays an important role in influencing public policy, and the North Carolina state legislature needs to recognize that this kind of hateful policy is igniting a backlash that holds businesses in their own community hostage.

The business community is making its voice heard — this legislation is bad for employees and bad for business. There is no room for discrimination, and San Francisco won’t tolerate it.

Lee Blitch is interim president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

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