Business coalition forms to fight 'license to discriminate' push

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The Open for Business Coalition — with some of the nation’s leading business associations as members — recently formed to oppose the so-called “Religious Freedom Bills” still pending in some states.

The coalition was announced as Mississippi Gov. Phil Byrant signed his state’s version of the bill.

But many of the coalition members worked to oppose Arizona’s version of the bill, which Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed earlier this year.

At least two other states, Missouri and Oklahoma, have similar forms of this bill progressing through their legislatures.

The coalition is includes the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, as well as the National Black Justice Coalition, Small Business Majority, US Business Leadership Network and U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

In letters to the Mississippi governor and lawmakers in Missouri and Oklahoma, the coalition said, “This bill, like the others currently being considered, would not protect ‘religious freedom’ as claimed but would effectively guarantee in state law the right to discriminate against vulnerable minority groups.”

The coalition, according to a news release, represents millions of consumers, small- and medium-sized businesses and corporations. Its members believe the measures being pursued under the guise of religious freedom will have a significant impact on economies where they are passed.

“The legislation works to discourage businesses seeking to expand in given states by shrinking a well-qualified, competitive and diverse workforce. We can see clearly the damaging effect the proposed bills would have on our businesses’ ability to hire and retain the best talent, to attract new customers, and to expand operations into these states,” said Chance Mitchell, co-founder and CEO of NGLCC.

Added Justin G. Nelson of the LGBT chamber, "No one should face discrimination while going about their daily lives. No one should fear that they might be seated in a separate area while visiting a restaurant, be thrown out of a sporting event, or denied a bank loan simply because of who they love. Given a choice, very few would choose to reside in or visit a state where these laws exist."