Last updated: 11:03 AM ET, Thu March 10 2016

Starwood Urges Georgia Governor to Oppose Pastor Protection Act

Hotel & Resort | Patrick Clarke | March 10, 2016

Starwood Urges Georgia Governor to Oppose Pastor Protection Act

A major hotel company has joined the opposition to House Bill 757, a controversial religious freedom bill known as the Pastor Protection Act that would shield clergy from having to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. 

On Wednesday, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide issued a letter to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal urging him to oppose the 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 Georgia," the letter states.

The company goes on to state that it "believes in maintaining a culture of inclusiveness."

"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."

READ MORE: Indiana's 'Religious Beliefs' Law Impacting Travel to the Hoosier State

The Stamford, Connecticut-based company said it's worried the bill's passage "will have a profound negative financial impact" on its 17 properties in Georgia. 

Starwood said it anticipates tourists and businesses to boycott the state if the legislation is approved.

"We urge you to oppose House Bill 757 in its current form and to help Georgia remain a State that is welcoming to all," the letter concludes. 

READ MORE: NOLA Tourism Comes Out Swinging Against Religious Freedom Law

The bill originally passed the Georgia House via a unanimous 161-0 vote last month and then passed the Senate 38-14 a week later. However the Senate amended the bill — combining it with the polarizing First Amendment Defense Actt that many view as discriminatory — requiring another vote from the House before it can be passed along to Gov. Deal. 

In the meantime, Starwood and other concerned companies operating in Georgia can take solace in the fact Gov. Deal has expressed strong opposition to the bill and has called on lawmakers to make changes before he would consider signing. 

The controversy in Georgia comes nearly one year after similar debates took place in Indiana in wake of Gov. Mike Pence signing a controversial religious freedom bill into law.


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