Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff just promised economic sanctions against Indiana and made a major stand for gay rights after “religious freedom” law passed

Lynsey Barber
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Marc Benioff is standing up for gay rights on behalf of his staff and customer (Source: Corbis)

The boss of Salesforce, the software company which almost renamed London’s Heron Tower, has just promised economic sanctions against the US state of Indiana and made a major stand for gay rights.

Marc Benioff said the firm will cancel plans to expand in Indiana and could leave the state altogether after lawmakers approved a law that allows businesses to turn away gay customers.

Benioff threatened the state with a “slow rolling out of economic sanctions” if the law wasn’t thrown out, speaking to Re/code.

The law, which supporters have backed in the name of religious freedom, is also being tabled for approval in several other states in the US.

The co-founder of review site Yelp, Jeremy Stoppelman also spoke out on the damage the bill would have on consumers, employees and the economy, after Benioff called on other tech leaders to show their support for gay rights and to take a stand against the bill.

Stoppelman said it was “unconscionable to imagine that Yelp would create, maintain, or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large.”

“These laws set a terrible precedent that will likely harm the broader economic health of the states where they have been adopted, the businesses currently operating in those states and, most importantly, the consumers who could be victimized under these laws,” he wrote in a blog post.

Speaking to Re/Code, Benioff said the tech industry will not support this kind of legislation and “is going to react against it".

Salesforce, which acquired Indiana-based company ExactTarget last year in a billion-dollar deal, has three offices in the state capital Indianapolis, employing around 1,000 people.

Benioff told the Indianapolis Business Journal last year the company was planning to build another Salesforce Tower in the city. Leases for the three locations run out between 2016 and 2021, IBJ reports.

The city of San Francisco, the home of Silicon Valley and many of the world’s leading tech firms, has condemned the measure: mayor Edwin Lee has banned city-funded trips to the state.

"San Francisco taxpayers will not subsidise legally-sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by the state of Indiana,” he said.

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