Mar 3, 201408:25 AMLeft Business Brain
with Tom Breuer
Note to Wisconsin: Homophobia is bad for business
(page 1 of 2)
In the face of mounting pressure from Apple, Intel, Marriott Hotels, and the fabulously gay NFL, among others, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer last week vetoed SB 1062, the notorious pro-discrimination bill that would have allowed state residents to refuse to feed, clothe, or shelter oppressed minorities in the name of Jesus.
For all we know, Brewer was itching to sign the bill, but the full-court press from both the business community and the not-completely-insane community persuaded her otherwise.
Of course, it’s tempting to sit in our ivory towers here in half-progressive Wisconsin and smirk as Arizona slowly devolves into my Catholic school playground circa 1974, but we’re not exactly rolling out the red carpet for the LGBT community here in the Badger State, either.
More on that in a moment, but first, let’s dispense with this travesty of a bill once and for all.
Seriously, what were they thinking? If some Christians refuse to let gay people sit at lunch counters because they don’t like their lifestyle, what’s to stop others from doing the same thing based on a narrow interpretation of their religion?
It also says in the Bible that tattoos are an abomination. And that you shouldn’t wear clothing with more than one type of fabric. And that it’s against the law to trim your beard. Oh, and by the way, according to Jesus, you shouldn’t pray in public. (See Matthew 6:5-15: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”)
So if it’s okay to bounce a lesbian couple simply for being gay, what’s to stop a bearded gay Christian from ejecting a family of heterosexual Christians who show up in his diner openly clean-shaven and determined to recite prayers before lunch — in clear violation of scripture? (Such an interpretation may sound bizarre to modern conservative Christians, but be assured, cherry-picking one biblical “abomination” from a host of others seems just as bizarre to the progressive Christian. And one inescapable fact remains: Jesus condemned public prayer more often than he condemned homosexuality.)
Moreover, what’s to stop Muslim business owners from denying service to non-Muslims, or Orthodox Jewish business owners from refusing people who don’t honor the traditional Jewish Sabbath? For that matter, why couldn’t Christian Scientists discriminate against people who rely on modern medicine, and why not let Scientologist restaurant owners turn away people who take antidepressants?
And what would stop you from establishing your own religion, just to punish people you don’t like? I happen to believe Arizona Republicans are evil gremlins who turn demonic if you get them wet or feed them after midnight. So stay out of my Denny’s, infidels.
So the bill was junk. Most of us know that.
But the broader message should be clear: Homophobia is no longer socially acceptable, and, increasingly, it’s bad for business.
Do you think Apple and the NFL would have put their multibillion-dollar brands on the line if they hadn’t clearly perceived which way the wind was blowing?
Of course, you could argue that creating an environment that’s welcoming to LGBT people has long been an economic winner. Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, and How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life, has been making this argument for more than a decade:
“Talented people seek an environment open to differences,” writes Florida. “Many highly creative people, regardless of ethnic background or sexual orientation, grew up feeling like outsiders, different in some way from most of their schoolmates. When they are sizing up a new company and community, acceptance of diversity and of gays in particular is a sign that reads ‘non-standard people welcome here.’”