Lambda Legal Underscores Importance of Corporate Leadership In RFRA Fight, Honoring Salesforce and Bill Oesterle

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August 28, 2015

On Friday, September 18th, Lambda Legal will honor two leaders whose public stance against Indiana’s so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA) this year elevated public outcry, outlined the costly impact of discrimination on business, and set important standard for corporate leadership on civil rights. For their important advocacy in Indiana, Lambda Legal honors Salesforce with the 2015 Corporate Leadership Award, and Bill Oesterle (pictured below), former CEO of Angie’s List, with the 2015 Individual Leadership Award.

Jennifer Pizer, Senior Counsel and Law and Policy Project National Director for Lambda Legal, said:

The leadership at Salesforce saw immediately that religious refusal laws are inconsistent with their values and goals. They moved fast and firmly to oppose discrimination in Indiana. Salesforce was clear that their extraordinary success is a function of innovation and drive, which need an open business environment that welcomes everyone. Lambda Legal was proud to work alongside Salesforce, providing analysis of these bills and helping them to bring their corporate values, vision and powerful voice to the public debate.

Jim Bennett, Midwest Regional Director at Lambda Legal

Bill Oesterle stood up for Hoosier families, speaking out not only as a leader in the business community, but as a husband and father who’s an ally to our equality movement. He was the first to put a price tag on the harm this discriminatory law would cost the Hoosier state, and his outspokenness elevated Indiana’s struggle in national headlines and inspired others to take a stand.” Bennett added, “These leaders brought national attention to the fight against discrimination in Indiana, setting the bar on how corporate values and voices can create a better business climate by insisting on fairness for all families across this country.

In January, 2015, the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” was introduced in the Indiana legislature. After the Indiana Senate rejected amendments designed to lessen the bill’s discriminatory impacts and sent the bill to the Indiana House, Salesforce Marketing Cloud CEO Scott McCorkle sent a letter to Indiana lawmakers saying in no uncertain terms that this discriminatory bill must be opposed.

The very public stand against religion-based discrimination was amplified by numerous corporate leaders after the bill’s controversial signing: Bill Oesterle, then CEO of Angie’s List, announced that the company would pull out of a pending expansion deal due to RFRA; and, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff boldly reinforced his company’s position in social media and national press. They were joined by other giants in Indiana business, including Gen Con, a $50 million annual gaming convention, the NCAA, Fortune 500 member Cummins, Eskenazi Health, Dow Agrosciences, Eli Lilly, and Roche Diagnostics, among others.

The powerful national backlash against the new law’s invitation to discriminate pressed Indiana lawmakers and Governor Pence to amend the new RFRA before its ink had even dried, lessening the discriminatory threats it poses for LGBT people in Indiana communities with local non-discrimination protections and raising awareness of the lack of such protections elsewhere.

On September 18, 2015, Lambda Legal’s Indiana Benefit, hosted at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, will present honors to Salesforce and Bill Oesterle for their indispensable roles in the fight against discrimination and for their continued community leadership on behalf of LGBT Hoosiers.

Click here for more information on the event.

Read the press release.