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IBM Takes Stand Against Controversial North Carolina Law

March 25, 2016, 12:49 AM UTC

IBM has criticized a decision by North Carolina’s governor to overturn a local ordinance that would have let transgender people use public bathrooms that match their gender identities.

Big Blue, one of North Carolina’s largest employers, posted a statement on Thursday that expressed disappointment with the new law, which LBGT rights supporters widely view a setback. The law short-circuited a Charlotte ordinance that would have let transgender men who identify as women use the women’s bathroom.

“This measure will reduce, rather than expand, the scope of anti-discrimination protection in the state,” the company said. It added that it would “continue to follow its global non-discrimination policies in the workplace, and believes that an inclusive and welcoming environment is the best way to attract talented individuals to our company.”

It is unclear whether IBM (IBM) will do anything beyond criticizing the law. But the company’s strongly-worded stand does come just weeks after Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff (CRM) threatened to pull his company’s upcoming Connections conference from nearby Georgia if that state’s governor fails to veto a “religious liberty” bill that is viewed by some as discriminatory against gay people.

The Georgia bill would let religious leaders and faith organizations deny services to anyone when so doing would violate a “sincerely held religious belief.” Others see that as carte blanche to refuse service to gays and lesbians.

Dell founder Michael Dell, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, and Microsoft (MSFT) president Brad Smith also weighed in against the Georgia bill as have Time-Warner (TWX), Disney (DIS) and some others.

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North Carolina’s new law was approved by the state’s legislature and signed Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor, within 12 hours. Proponents said the bill will prevent men from using women’s bathrooms and locker rooms.

IBM, which has a large presence in the Raleigh-Durham-Research Triangle Park area, emphasized on Thursday that it has spent more than $300 million on research and development in the state over the past five years and that its total economic impact is $3.4 billion annually.

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“IBM and its employees have also contributed more than $15 million to boost non profits in the state,” a spokesman said via email.

Salesforce’s Benioff, who has a history of taking political stands, including threatening to pull out of Indiana after the governor there signed a religious rights bill similar to Georgia’s, echoed IBM’s criticism about the latest North Carolina law, according to the Huffington Post.

Last year, IBM also opposed a similar law backed by Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. That law was defeated.

Note: This story was updated at 1:17 p.m. EDT March 24 to reflect that IBM is one of North Carolina’s largest employers but not the largest.