Arne Sorenson, President and CEO at Marriott International Inc, the hotel group which has 4,400 lodging properties in 81 countries and territories, and had reported revenue of over $14 billion in 2015, has said that it’s not OK to discriminate against LGBT people. He believes that this type of political stance is “the politics of diviseness” and explained his position in a commentary to CNBC (text below).
“I was asked to join a group of American business leaders and CEOs in opposing North Carolina’s HB2, a bill passed recently that sanctions LGBT discrimination across that state.
For Marriott and for me, this was an easy call. The law does not reflect our values or a basic principle that helps drive new jobs and economic growth in North Carolina and beyond: Everyone deserves to be welcome. We are disappointed with the unusual speed that was given to passing and signing this legislation into law, undoubtedly an attempt to minimize public outcry.
Undeterred, I’m pleased to see that we are aligned with civil rights advocates, as well as most of the state’s top employers and job creators in calling for HB2 to be repealed. We’ve also heard a chorus of objections from major sporting leagues and organizers of popular North Carolina events, like the upcoming High Point Market Week that celebrates the state’s outstanding furnishings and design industry. At Marriott, we are also hearing from concerned customers and local employees.
In our experience, the ability of the business community to work in a spirit of collaboration with state policy makers often generates better outcomes leading to economic dividends. Mutual respect and open discourse encourage all parties involved to craft reasonable solutions to real challenges.
It’s regrettable that did not occur in North Carolina. We have seen this happen elsewhere, where haste and political expediency produce laws that ultimately diminish a state’s reputation along with its appeal for tourism, job creation and economic activity. I hope more state leaders will learn from these missteps.
There is another path. Business worked successfully with governors like Georgia’s Nathan Deal, who was willing to hear our economic, legal and moral concerns with a bill in that state as concerning as HB2. Kudos to Gov. Deal for stepping up to veto this legislation, saying it did not reflect Georgia’s welcoming image as a state where “our people work side by side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to.” We agree with his observation that state law need not discriminate against one group to protect another.
In Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe followed Georgia’s example by vetoing a misguided “religious liberty” bill, emphasizing that state law and the Constitution already protect these freedoms. He added that the bill “creates roadblocks as we try to build the new Virginia economy.”
As a global hospitality leader and multistate employer, these legislative skirmishes can be frustrating and costly. We still see a patchwork of gaps in state and local nondiscrimination laws that add complications and uncertainty for our people and local managers. It dismays many of us that, in 29 states, people are still at risk of losing their job just for being gay or transgender.
Predictability in nondiscrimination laws would be welcome. Unfortunately, we do not yet have a federal law banning employment discrimination or discrimination in the provision of public accommodations that includes protection for LGBT people. That is exactly why Marriott recently joined with scores of American business leaders to endorse Congressional passage of the Equality Act — which for the first time, will set uniform, federal protections in place that include sexual orientation and gender identity.
At Marriott, we are dedicated to ensuring every guest and all of our associates are valued, welcomed and protected from discrimination whenever they enter our doors. However, we also believe they deserve equal respect and safeguards from discrimination in the communities where they live and raise their families.
America’s promise is clear. Our nation strives to provide equal opportunity, no matter who you are. Most Americans today understand that we shouldn’t judge people by how they worship, who they love, what gender they identify with or by their wealth, nationality, race, sex, age or physical abilities.
To be competitive in the world today, America needs everyone’s skills. Including LGBT people in that effort is not simply the right thing to do, it’s also essential for business”.
The 57 year-old is the first person outside the Marriott family to run the large hotel group, and has been CEO since 2012. Marriott is No 16 on DiversityInc’s list of top 50 companies for diversity, and won a PFLAG award for Straight For Equality In The Workplace, accepted by Mr Sorenson, who is also chairman of Marriott’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Council.
For video footage where he is also speaking on this issue, go to CNBC at