Nashville LGBT Chamber 01

Servando Esparaza representing TechNet in Nashville LGBT Chamber press conference.

Mars Petcare’s presence in Tennessee sparked its parent company, Mars Inc., to emphasize its stance against anti-transgender legislation by contributing to the Nashville LGBT Chamber’s open letter to the state of Tennessee.

The letter comes in response to Tennessee being one of at least 11 states considering legislation believed by many to discriminate against the LGBT+ community.

As of March 29, HB 1182 passed the Tennessee House, and with its companion bill, SB 1224, it would require businesses to post controversial signage on all restroom entrances and at each general entrance available to the public related to transgender people.

Per the legislation, if a Tennessee business allowed transgender people to use the restroom of their gender identity, it would have to post this message: "This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation of the restroom." 

Per the Advocate, the Human Rights Campaign said the bill's designated signage would be "offensive and humiliating" to the transgender community. 

This bill’s progress also comes on the heels of Gov. Bill Lee’s signing of the so-called anti-transgender sports bill the week prior. The Nashville LGBT Chamber says that these bills are discriminatory, and the chamber organized a press conference with several businesses whose spokespersons joined to express their respective corporations’ disdain for such legislation.

Those businesses — including Amazon, Dell Technologies, and TechNet — joined Nashville LGBT Chamber CEO Joe Woolley in warning Tennessee that laws like these may cost the state a significant amount of commerce and related tax revenue if pro-LGBT+ corporations decide to no longer do business in the state.

Mars Petcare is not only one of the 134 Tennessee companies to sign onto this open letter — flanked from Williamson County by Franklin Pride TN — but also one of the five big corporations to contribute a spokesperson to deliver a public statement in said conference. However, Woolley explained after Amazon’s spokesperson delivered a statement that Mars’s spokesperson became unavailable upon short notice.

A written version of Mars’s statement is included in the open letter:

At Mars, we believe our business and our community are at their best when we embrace and celebrate all people. We firmly believe that everyone is equal and that every person deserves to be treated with respect, dignity, and fairness. We value our presence across the state of Tennessee and continue to invest here as it has been a great place to do business. Discrimination has no place in our business or our laws. We strongly oppose any bill that would negatively impact our entire community and the thriving business environment that we currently have. We respectfully urge the legislature to reject and Gov. Lee to veto any such bills.”

Mars, Inc., the parent company, also contributed an op-ed to USA Today, published Wednesday of last week, headlined: “Corporate leaders: Companies should work against LGBTQ bills in Texas, other states.” They did so in collaboration with three of the other major food corporations in the U.S.: Nestlé USA, Danone North America and Unilever United States. The op-ed assumed an ethical responsibility for all businesses to do likewise and served as a call to arms for all businesses.

Nissan North America, Inc., who is stationed in Cool Springs, signed the open letter, as did other businesses headquartered in or doing business in Tennessee.

They include but are not limited to Ryman Hospitality Properties, Warner Music Group, Lyft, Asurion, BMG, Vanderbilt University, the Nashville Symphony and the Bonnaroo Works Fund. 

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