A coalition of 161 major businesses —including Apple, Coca-Cola and Target Corp. — has formed to urge Congress to ban anti-LGBT discrimination with passage of the Equality Act, the Human Rights Campaign announced Friday.

The initiative, known as the Business Coalition for the Equality Act, was first launched in 2016 with 60 members, but now includes nearly three times that number of businesses.

Forming a coalition organized by the Human Rights Campaign, these companies operate in all 50 states, have headquarters in 26 states, more than $3.7 trillion in combined revenue and more than 8.5 million employees in the United States.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced on Thursday the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include LGBT people, will be introduced next week. Capitol Hill sources have to the Blade the bill will be introduced on Wednesday.

Pelosi has already said passage of the Equality Act will be a priority for the New Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement the 161 businesses “are sending a loud and clear message that the time has come for full federal equality.”

“By standing with the LGBTQ community and joining the fight to pass the Equality Act, these companies are demanding full federal equality for the more than 11 million LGBTQ people in this country who deserve to earn a living, raise their families and live their lives free from discrimination,” Griffin said. “These leading employers know that protecting their employees and customers from discrimination isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s also good for business.”

Kevin Walling, chief human resources officer of the one of thew new coalition member Hershey’s, said in a statement the Equality Act is consistent with his company’s mission.

“At The Hershey Company, we recognize that our talented employees are our business edge, and that retaining our place as the market leader in our category requires the best talent,” Walling said.“To help us achieve our goal of recruiting the nation’s top employees, we know that we must foster a business culture that is welcoming to all, regardless of sexual orientation, or gender, or race, or other status.  By the same token, if our nation is to compete on a global stage, our federal laws must ensure that all employees are treated with the same respect. That is why The Hershey Company supports the Human Rights Campaign and the Equality Act.”

Story courtesy of the Washington Blade. 

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