Salesforce.com, Angie's List and NextGear Capital lead a list of Indiana companies that are publicly backing Bill Oesterle's new tech-focused LGBT advocacy group, setting the stage for the new coalition to advance its goal of impelling state and local governments to add sexual orientation and gender identity protections to their non-discrimination statutes.
Oesterle, the former CEO of Angie's List, said Monday that 30 companies and individuals have signed a letter backing the group, which is called Tech for Equality. Mark Hill, founder of Baker Hill and Collina Ventures, is listed as a co-founder of the group.
Tech companies in Indiana have been some of the fastest-growing and highest-paying businesses to emerge in recent decades, and Tech for Equality aims to leverage some of that economic prowess to increase legal protections against discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.
The companies that signed on as supporters represent about 4,700 employees, Oesterle said.
Salesforce employs more than 2,000 Hoosiers, the company said this spring. Its CEO, Marc Benioff, was heavily involved in opposing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act Indiana signed into law last March and threatened to scale back the San Francisco-based firm's activity in the state.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, Oesterle said he and a significant contingency of backers will attend the Carmel City Council meeting Monday night to support a proposal that will add those protections, and the group is not interested in any compromises, such as pursuing transgendered protections down the road.
"The LGBT community is united on this," he said. "And certainly from the standpoint of the companies we've been talking to, this is one of those issues—there's not room to compromise on civil rights."
Oesterle announced the creation of the group Sept. 17, citing it as one aspect of his plans to be more civically involved in the state after stepping down from Angie's List in July.
The long-time supporter of LGBT rights signaled his discontent with the legislative environment for LGBT individuals when he pulled the plug on an Angie's List expansion proposal in March after Gov. Mike Pence signed RFRA into law. The Angie's List proposal involved state funding, and the RFRA law was seen by many as anti-gay.
Officially, four individuals have penned their names backing the effort, including Hill; Santiago Jaramillo of Fishers-based Bluebridge Digital; Mat Orrego of Bloomington-based Cornerstone Information Systems; and Lauren Malhoit of Cisco, who is based in Indianapolis.
The list of individuals and companies should grow, Oesterle said. So far, 26 companies have signed on:
— NextGear Capital
— Cannon IV
— Angie's List
— Collina Ventures
— Clear Software
— Herron Capital
— Indigo bioAutomation
— Shop Your Spot
— Think Ahead Studios