Homophobia is Bad for Business

There are plenty of feminist/ economic things to worry about here in New York City. Sometimes I get so caught up in wondering why the fashion industry is courting de Blasio and where I can find a cup of coffee for a reasonable price, that I forget to check in with other cities, or other states for that matter. And my mental health pays a mighty price for neglecting the rest of the country, when I’m blindsided by a headline like this: “AZ Senate: Businesses citing religion should be able to refuse service to gays.”

The bill, HB 2153, was proposed by Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, with the intention of “preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith.” Apparently, Yarbrough got a little nervous when he heard about a New Mexico Supreme Court case that ruled in favor of a gay couple attempting to sue a photographer who refused (on religious grounds) to take pictures of their wedding.

Ah, Senator, I see your game: you want to legitimize a religious prejudice that leads to discrimination by manipulating language, and insisting that the act of discriminating based on religious prejudice is an exercise of the guaranteed freedom to actively practice religion. But here’s the problem: the act of taking wedding photographs is not, inherently, against any religion. Neither is selling me, your local, friendly queer, my morning espresso.

I see right through you, trying to cover up your desire to exercise hate by abusing your power to literally redefine words. Good try. Bonus points for creativity, though!

But… is the supposed peace of mind this bill will afford Arizona businesses make up for losses in customers and alienating significant portions of the labor market? Some Democratic senators reminded their conservative counterparts of Arizona’s 2010 immigration-crack down law: businesses started avoiding the state. Now, I can think of plenty of less-than-socially-benevolent reasons why businesses would avoid a state with strict immigration laws, but point the Democrats were trying to make still rings true: Arizona no longer feels like a place queer customers/ workers and their queer friends want to frequent.

And this isn’t just my opinion. A very similar bill (HB 2453) was just defeated in Kansas, much to the delight of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, which released this statement:

The Kansas Chamber commends Senate President Susan Wagle for listening to the concerns of the business community regarding… House Bill 2453…

The legal departments of a number of businesses are concerned that this bill raises legal issues and potentially costly legal questions over how businesses would be expected to comply with areas of business speech, discrimination, and privacy concerns covered in the bill. Questions have also arisen over how employers would be required to handle employer/employee relationships, particularly in light of federal law and how potential application appears to extend far beyond the original legislative intent. The impact on Kansas businesses, particularly those with very few employees, is very troubling.

Right from the horse’s mouth, folks. Discrimination is not good for business practice. And note how the Chamber of Commerce never refers to concerns regarding “gay rights” – that’s because the language of these laws is so broad that basically anyone whose way of life conflicts with a business owner could be fired or refused service. A single mother, for example. Now there’s a significant part of the labor force/ consumer demographic you don’t want to exclude…

Of course, Arizona’s governor, Janice Brewer vetoed the bill last week, stating that she did not believe the bill addressed a problem actually faced by Arizona businesses; but not before major companies such as American Airlines, Apple Inc., and even the Arizona Cardinals released public statements condemning the law (for a more complete list, see abcnews.com’s article).

I find that timeline positively fascinating.

So; keep your head up feminists/ queer allies (and your eyes on the whole world, not just the five boroughs)! Another battle has been won! And this time, with the help of Corporate America – who would have guessed?

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Categories: Law, Policy, and Government, Legislation, These United States

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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