Margaret Jean Plews works on a chalk drawing as she joined nearly 250 gay rights supporters protesting SB1062 at the Arizona Capitol, Feb. 21, 2014.
Ross D. Franklin/AP

Corporate America becomes a beacon of progress for gay rights

Updated

Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday vetoed Arizona’s “license to discriminate” bill in a decision that has huge implications for politicians on the national stage. Suddenly, we are faced with a national decision between justice and injustice.

How did all that happen in just a few short days? A handful of years ago, a bill like Arizona’s could have been passed and would have been signed into law without so much as a blip on the national radar – and in fact, several were.

A big part of the answer comes from major American businesses that are standing up for their LGBT employees and are making headlines leading the charge against discrimination. They’re refusing to allow anti-LGBT legislators—legislators who don’t even represent the wishes of the conservative-leaning people of the state—to threaten Arizona jobs and the state’s economic future.

The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, 2/26/14, 10:35 PM ET

Businesses, LGBT activists react to veto

Screenwriter and LGBT Activist Dustin Lance Black, AZ’s only gay State Rep., Demion Clinco and the Policy Director for AZ employer Yelp, react to Gov. Brewer…

“When the legislature passes bills like this, it creates a reputation that Arizona is judgmental and unwelcoming,” read a letter from 80 Arizona businesses and business organizations to Governor Brewer, urging her to veto the bill. “This will haunt our business community for generations to come.”

And it’s not just the pizzeria in Mesa or the nail salon in Flagstaff that would have suffered if Brewer had signed this hateful bill. Major multinational corporations including AT&T, American Airlines, Marriott, Delta and Apple weighed in—genuinely concerned that being associated with a state that celebrates discrimination will tarnish their brands across the country and around the world.

Even the NFL and the 2015 Arizona Super Bowl host committee spoke up, with the strong implication that Arizona’s right to the massive sporting event—and the countless millions of dollars in economic activity it brings—could be in jeopardy if S.B. 1062 became law.

Though this may be the loudest outcry yet, business support for LGBT equality is nothing new. Since 2002, we at the Human Rights Campaign have been measuring businesses’ support for their LGBT employees—and the upward trend has been relentless for more than a decade.

Beginning around 2008, major corporations began speaking out loudly for statewide marriage equality bills and workplace nondiscrimination laws across the country. And in 2012, hundreds of the nation’s largest companies signed a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court urging the Justices to strike down the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.

The message is clear. Once seen as a bastion of conservatism, Corporate America has transformed itself into a beacon of progress when it comes to LGBT equality.

Passing hateful bills like S.B. 1062 may have been great political red meat a decade ago, but that day is long past. Today, there is no quicker way to watch your political support crumble than by cementing your feet on the wrong side of history.

Chad Griffin is president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization

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Corporate America becomes a beacon of progress for gay rights

Updated