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Tech leaders sign letter opposing religious rights bills and discrimination against LGBT community

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CEOs and investors add their names to the national outcry

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Over the weekend Apple CEO Tim Cook penned a letter speaking out against discriminatory religious freedom laws that allows business owners to refuse service to gay and transgender people, or other groups, because of their beliefs. Today 39 more leaders from the tech industry added their names to that protest.

"We believe it is critically important to speak out about proposed bills and existing laws that would put the rights of minorities at risk," they wrote. "The transparent and open economy of the future depends on it, and the values of this great nation are at stake." The group was organized by Max Levchin, CEO of Affirm and co-founders of PayPal. He was joined by leaders from Twitter, Square, SalesForce, AirBnB, Evernote, Ebay, and many more. The current outcry is a response to legislation signed into law last week by Indiana governor Mike Pence. Nineteen other states have similar laws on the books, and many more are considering them right now.

SalesForce CEO Marc Benioff canceled company events in Indiana, and many other organizations have followed suit. The pushback seems to be having an effect. The governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, recently said that he would not sign new legislation until it was changed to more clearly prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity that Cook and these tech leaders are calling out.

"The issue has become divisive because our nation remains split on how to balance the diversity of our culture with the traditions and firmly held religious convictions," Hutchinson said. "It has divided families, and there is clearly a generational gap on this issue." State legislators in Indiana are reportedly also in discussions to repeal or amend the controversial law in their state.

A full list of the signatories and the letter is below:

Max Levchin, CEO, Affirm

Mark Pincus, Chairman, Zynga

Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO, Yelp

Marc Benioff, CEO, SalesForce

Jack Dorsey, CEO, Square

Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter

Joe Green, CEO, Lyft

Brian Chesky, CEO, AirBnB

Joe Gebbia, CPO, AirBnB

Nathan Blecharczyk, CTO, AirBnB

Ron Conway, CEO, Axon JuriMed Group LLC

John Donahoe, CEO, eBay

Paul Graham, CoFounder, YCombinator

Rich Barton, Chairman, Zillow Group

Chad Hurley, CEO, Mixbit

Adora Cheung, CEO, Homejoy

Phil Libin, CEO, Evernote

Trevor Traina, CEO, IfOnly

Nirav Tolia, CEO, NextDoor

Dion Lim, CEO, NextLesson

Bret Taylor, CEO, Quip

Joe Lonsdale, CEO, Formation 8

Thomas Layton, Chairman, Elance-odesk

Fabio Rosati, CEO, Elance-odesk

Dave Morin, CEO, Path

Mark Goldstein, Chairman, BackOps

Kevin Rose, CEO, North Technologies

Yves Behar, CCO, Jawbone

Padmasree Warrior, CTSO, Cisco Systems

Tony Conrad, CEO, about.me

Sunil Paul, CEO, Sidecar

Michael Moritz, Chairman, Sequoia Capital

Dan Schulman, President, PayPal

Devin Wenig, President, eBay Marketplaces

Robert Hohman, CEO, Glassdoor

Laurene Powell Jobs, Founder and Chair, Emerson Collective

Mohan Warrior, CEO, Alphalight

David Spector, CIO, Penny Mac

Shervin Pishevar, CoFounder, Sherpa Ventures

"Joint Statement from Tech Industry Leaders":

The values of diversity, fairness and equality are central to our industry. These values fuel creativity and inspiration, and those in turn make the U.S. technology sector the most admired in the world today.

We believe it is critically important to speak out about proposed bills and existing laws that would put the rights of minorities at risk. The transparent and open economy of the future depends on it, and the values of this great nation are at stake.

Religious freedom, inclusion, and diversity can co-exist and everyone including LGBT people and people of faith should be protected under their states’ civil rights laws. No person should have to fear losing their job or be denied service or housing because of who they are or whom they love.

However, right now those values are being called into question in states across the country. In more than twenty states, legislatures are considering legislation that could empower individuals or businesses to discriminate against LGBT people by denying them service if it they felt it violated their religious beliefs.

To ensure no one faces discrimination and ensure everyone preserves their right to live out their faith, we call on all legislatures to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes to their civil rights laws and to explicitly forbid discrimination or denial of services to anyone.

Anything less will only serve to place barriers between people, create hurdles to creativity and inclusion, and smother the kind of open and transparent society that is necessary to create the jobs of the future. Discrimination is bad for business and that’s why we’ve taken the time to join this joint statement.