US companies led by tech firms Yahoo, Apple, Alphabet, Dell, Microsoft, and Facebook criticised the Trump administration’s decision to revoke Obama administration guidance that allowed transgender public school students to use the bathroom of their choice.
Their statements evoked the opposition expressed by many businesses last year when the state of North Carolina passed a law that forces transgender people to use public restrooms matching their gender assigned at birth.
The resulting boycotts have cost North Carolina more than $560 million in economic activity, according to the online magazine Facing South.
Companies lacked the same opportunity to protest with their dollars in this instance, since the Trump administration action pertains to schools, but still signalled they stood with the Obama policy of using the federal government to expand transgender civil rights.
“It’s ultimately going to come down to the business community to stop it because it’s so bad for business,” said Christopher Gergen, chief executive of Forward Impact, an entrepreneurial organization based in Raleigh, North Carolina.
In unveiling the new direction on Wednesday, Trump administration officials argued that transgender policies should be an issue for the states to decide.
“The action taken by the administration is troubling and goes against all that we believe in,” Yahoo said in a statement.
Social conservatives have hailed the decision by the Justice and Education departments to defer transgender bathroom policies to the states, calling it a victory for privacy and traditional values.
But companies have tried to persuade state and local governments to side with transgender people.
“We support efforts toward greater acceptance, not less, and we strongly believe that transgender students should be treated as equals,” Apple said in a statement.
Microsoft President Brad Smith looked to history as a guide, referencing the date that the Emancipation Proclamation took effect, when President Abraham Lincoln declared freedom for slaves.
“Since January 1, 1863, the federal government has played a vital role in protecting the rights of all Americans. Let’s not stop now,” Smith said on Twitter.
Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey joined other tech firms criticizing the Trump administration’s position.
“Rolling back rights for transgender students is wrong,” Dorsey said in a tweet on Thursday. “Twitter and Square stand with the LGBTQ community, always.”
Alphabet said, “We’ve long advocated for policies that provide equal rights and treatment for all. We’re deeply concerned to see a roll back in transgender students’ rights.”
Dell said, “Dell team members receive fair treatment in the workplace regardless of race, gender identity or religion. We mirror that commitment in our corporate diversity and anti-discrimination policies. We look forward to working with state and local officials on policies that encourage fairness, economic growth and business development.”
Facebook said, “Facebook is a strong supporter of equality. We stand for ensuring equal rights for everyone, including transgender students, and will continue to advocate for more rights instead of fewer.”
IBM said, “”IBM has had an explicit policy of non-discrimination based on gender identity or expression since 2002, and we are opposed to discrimination in all its forms, including any policies that discriminate based on gender identity in education.”
Lyft said, “Removing protections for transgender students is wrong. We oppose this action and, as always, stand in support of the LGBTQ community.”
Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff tweeted, “Let’s agree now to always love all our children, and that our schools will be safe places for all. #EqualityForAll”
In response to the North Carolina law, companies such as Deutsche Bank and PayPal canceled expansion plans, costing the state jobs.
By invoking states’ rights, the Trump administration is potentially emboldening legislatures in other states that are considering laws similar to North Carolina’s HB2.