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IBM CEO, business group call on Congress to pass LGBT rights bill

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, in her leadership role at the Business Roundtable, has penned a sharply worded letter calling on Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would protect LGBTQ Americans from a broad range of discrimination.

Why it matters: While IBM has supported such legislation in the past, it's the first time the Business Roundtable has taken on the issue in such a high-profile and concerted manner.

Details: The Equality Act would amend several existing federal civil rights laws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, offering protection in areas ranging from employment and housing to credit and public accommodations.

"As employers, America's leading companies know that our economy works best when our employees can be who they are, without fear of bias, discrimination, or inequality – in the workplace or in their communities," writes Rometty, who heads the Business Roundtable's education and workforce committee.

Between the lines: Despite some bipartisan support and significant corporate backing, the bill faces a challenge given Republican control of the Senate and White House.

The letter, addressed to Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), notes that most large businesses have already added nondiscrimination policies protecting LGBTQ workers from discrimination.

"We can control what happens in our workplaces but that’s not enough," IBM government affairs VP Chris Padilla told Axios. "Employees need to be protected not just in the workplace but in society in general."

Go deeper: Here's the full text of Rometty's letter.

On behalf of the CEO members of Business Roundtable who lead companies with more than 15 million employees, we write in support of the Equality Act.
Equality and fairness are core American values. It is these values that lead us to strongly endorse the Equality Act, which will enshrine into federal law clear, consistent and comprehensive protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
As employers, America’s leading companies know that our economy works best when our employees can be who they are, without fear of bias, discrimination, or inequality in the workplace or in their communities. And as Americans, we are firmly committed to the principles of equality and fairness that have distinguished our nation since its founding.
Diversity is a fact, but inclusion is hard work. Most American companies long ago included sexual orientation and gender identity in their non- discrimination polices. It is time for the federal government to make it the law of the land. The Business Roundtable endorses the Equality Act and urges that it be enacted by Congress without delay.
Sincerely,
Ginni Rometty
Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer IBM Corporation
Chair, Education and Workforce Committee Business Roundtable
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