Salesforce CEO: I'd leave Georgia over gay rights

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Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff and a Georgia lawmaker publicly clashed on Friday after Benioff threatened to divest from the state due to a bill that many believe would restrict gay rights.

The proposal would give religious officials the right to refuse to perform same-sex marriages. It passed the Georgia Senate last week, combined with another bill that would allow religious nonprofits to deny services to same-sex marriages.

Marc Benioff speaks at the Salesforce keynote during Dreamforce 2015 at Moscone Center on September 16, 2015 in San Francisco, California.
Tim Mosenfelder | Getty Images
Marc Benioff speaks at the Salesforce keynote during Dreamforce 2015 at Moscone Center on September 16, 2015 in San Francisco, California.

Benioff on Friday asked social media followers whether he should move Connections, the company's digital marketing event slated for May, out of Atlanta if the bill becomes law.

Republican Georgia Sen. Joshua McKoon, who voted for the measure, defended it in a series of tweets. He called Salesforce hypocritical for operating in India and Singapore, which currently have controversial provisions that criminalize homosexual acts.

In a statement, Salesforce said it "believes in equality for all" and would "have to consider reducing its investments in the state of Georgia" if it the bill in its current form became law. The company said more than 400 other businesses oppose the bill as it is.

Salesforce's statement did not address McKoon's criticism about operations in India and Singapore.

McKoon told CNBC that he wanted Salesforce "to immediately shutter all business operations in India and Singapore in accordance with [Benioff's] publicly stated positions," adding that he would be "delighted" to debate the issue with Benioff in an open forum. He argued that the measure in Georgia "merely ensures the government will not punish an individual or organization for the views they hold."

Benioff and McKoon discussed the issue on Twitter throughout the day. Benioff shared messages from supporters and sent a bible verse to McKoon.

The senator, meanwhile, defended the Georgia provision as a protection of religious liberty.