Religious liberties bills across US spark protests, denounced by businesses

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Corporations are pushing back against legislation some are calling discriminatory against members of the LGBT community. Several states across the US are pushing so-called "religious liberties bills."

While the bills are not the same in each state, many contain similar policies and language that supporters say protect religious freedom, while opponents say legalize discrimination.

One in North Carolina sets rules on who can enter men's and women's public bathrooms. The legislation was met with outrage from protesters in the capital city of Raleigh.

"All these people are angry. They are upset. They have been left out of the democratic process," one protester said. The activists gathered outside the governor's mansion to voice their opinions on the state's bill, which they see as devastating to the transgender community.

The law strikes down a recently passed ordinance in Charlotte, N.C. that would have allowed transgender people to use the restroom of their choice based on how they themselves identify.

Republican lawmakers like State Senate Pro Tempore Phil Berger were furious at the ordinance.

"Allows grown men to share bathrooms and locker facilities with girls and women," Berger said. In a special session solely to consider the bill, Republican lawmakers passed the Public Facilities Privacy and Securities Act. It requires transgender people in the state of North Carolina to use the bathroom based on the sex as described on their birth certificate.

The bill, signed into law on Wednesday, is the latest in a recent string of states attempting to pass laws the LGBT community is calling discriminatory.

In Georgia, a religious liberty bill called the Free Exercise Protection Act passed the state house and the senate, and now awaits the governor's signature. But many have warned, the bill's ethics aside, the law could hit the state economically, that businesses would view Georgia as anti-gay, and take their business to other states.

This threat is becoming a dangerous reality, as several big name businesses have already said they would leave if the bill is passed. Major industry players like Disney and Marvel studios as well as the NFL have spoken out against the bill. Georgia is home to the nation's third-largest film industry, behind only California and New York. The Atlanta Falcons are also nearing completion of a brand new stadium that owners hoped would one day host the Super Bowl and other events.

Missouri is also among the states pushing a religious liberty bill. Supporters have defended the bill saying that the state's legislation is unique in that it only deals with clergy and business that would work on gay weddings.

Large corporations such as MasterCard and Monsanto have publicly declared their opposition, praising Governor Jay Nixon for his opposition, who tweeted, "Indiana learned the hard way that discriminatory measures like #SJR39 are bad for business #Notinmystate #moleg."

Opponents in Kansas City have said the bill could cost the city the Big 12 tournament.

Nixon was referencing Indiana's religious liberties bill that drew large protests at this time last year. The state passed the law, and in response organizations like the NCAA and Angie's List helped lead to a follow-up law that won specific protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Protests also led to major changes to a bill in Arkansas around the same time.

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