Starwood has shared a letter sent by Kenneth S. Siegel, its Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel to Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant detailing the company’s concerns of the state’s controversial “religious freedom” bill.
The legislation, HB 1523, promises that the state government will not punish people who refuse to provide services to people because of a religious opposition to same-sex marriage, extramarital sex or transgender people.
Supporters say it protects the rights of people who are opposed to homosexuality but who now live in a country where same-sex marriage is a legal right. Opponents say the law amounts to a state sanction for open discrimination.
Contents of Mr Siegel’s letter:
“I am writing on behalf of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. and its Brands (St. Regis ®, The Luxury Collection ®, W®, Westin ®, Le Méridien ®, Sheraton ®, Tribute Portfolio™, Four Points ® by Sheraton, Aloft®, Element ®, and partner Design Hotels ™) to express our serious concerns with House Bill 1523 and to respectfully ask that you oppose this bill. Although this bill purports to protect religious freedom, in its current form it effectively legalizes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, is antithetical to Starwood’s core values of diversity and inclusiveness, and will have significant adverse effects on Starwood’s business in the State of Mississippi.
Starwood strongly believes in maintaining a culture of inclusiveness with the global objective of creating an environment where all associates, guests, customers, developers and shareholders feel invited, welcomed and valued for their differences. As such, our policies prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, as well as other categories such as color, race, age, national origin, pregnancy, citizenship status, ancestry, marital status, veteran status, disability, handicap, religion, creed and genetic information. The religious freedom legislation being proposed in Mississippi is contrary to the core value of inclusiveness we strive for at Starwood.
We expect to open several hotels in Mississippi in the near future, and believe this legislation will have a profound negative financial impact on our business in Mississippi as tourists, event planners and even corporations will react hostilely to this discriminatory legislation and will choose to take their business to locations outside of the State of Mississippi. We urge you to oppose House Bill 1523 in its current form and to help Mississippi remain a State that is welcoming to all.”
Despite Starwood and Ken Siegel’s letter, Gov. Bryant signed the bill into law in Mississippi today.