Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Big Business is Dragging the GOP into the Future on Gay Rights

I left the Republican Party for a number of reasons, the most important of which was the GOP's refusal to recognize the concept of separation of church and state.  Loosely related to this issue was the GOP's growing insistence to denigrate gays and make LGBT Americans forever legally inferior via so-called "marriage amendments."  Neither of these agendas fit with the Party's supposed allegiance to personal freedom and a smaller, less intrusive government.   As a column in Politico notes, the GOP has lost the battle against gay rights and big business has been a major factor in this defeat.  Moreover, some Republicans - namely, the non-Christofascists - are pleased with the outcome.  Here are some column highlights:

I'm not among those Republicans who have “evolved” on the issue of gay rights. I didn’t need to. I’ve always been attracted to the GOP message of more freedom and less government, but thought it hypocritical and counter to the core of our philosophy that Republicans would not apply those tenets to gay rights. But of course I was often the black sheep in campaign meetings during the 1990s and 2000s.

[T]he wedge issue [of gay rights] has now lost its edge, even, I would argue, in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. No Republican can win the nomination without the support of the business community. And Big Business is now at odds with the social conservative faction
of the Republican Party over gay and transgender equality — and Big Business is winning.

Look at what’s happened in four states dominated by the GOP in the past year.

Weeks before the Super Bowl kickoff in 2014, the Arizona Legislature passed a bill allowing businesses to refuse service to gay customers. This “religious freedom” measure made it OK for business owners to kick customers out of their establishments if they opposed homosexuality on religious grounds. Scores of corporate titans in the travel and tourism industry, together with the NFL, opposed the bill. Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed it.

In Indiana this March, lawmakers tried to pass similar legislation, followed by a hell-hath-no-fury response led by Eli Lilly, Salesforce and Angie’s List, which canceled a $40 million project planned for Indianapolis. Marriott’s CEO said the legislation was “pure idiocy from a business perspective.” Gov. Mike Pence modified the bill, but the damage was done. (The state has since hired a global PR firm to resuscitate its image following the brouhaha.)

In Arkansas, same story. Seeing the firestorm that occurred in Indiana, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson didn’t sign the original bill that hit his desk after calls for him to veto it came from his own son, and from Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, which said the bill ran counter to the company’s values. In the end, the governor signed a less toxic, less controversial bill.

And this week, Texas became the latest to join the fray.  The Lone Star State just wrapped its legislative session, which included two “religious freedom” constitutional amendments. Learning from what happened in the above states, industry groups and major businesses went out pre-emptively — let me say that again: pre-emptively — before such bills made it too far in the Legislature. The conservative state chamber of commerce, the Texas Association of Business, took the lead.

The amendments “would devastate economic development, tourism and the convention business,” said Bill Hammond, TAB’s CEO.

More than 250 Texas companies — American Airlines, Dell, Texas Instruments, Dow Chemical, the Dallas Mavericks — went on record with a general pledge in support of treating gay and transgender Texans fairly and equally under the law — and that welcoming and inclusive communities are essential to their bottom line.

Both amendments in the Texas Legislature died a quick death.

So: four states, same story and same result. If the “religious freedom” strategy can’t work in Texas — the bastion of conservatism and beacon for business — where can it work?

Elections are always about the future, never about the past. And so my advice to GOP candidates is to recognize that since our society has largely moved on, and business has moved on, so should the party of Abraham Lincoln, who fought a civil war over civil rights.

Discrimination is now simply bad for the bottom line and bad for any brand, whether a company’s or a state’s. When it comes to recruitment and retention, the millennial generation, which will be 75 percent of the workforce by 2030, doesn’t have much tolerance for anti-gay anything. In fact, it’s become somewhat of a litmus test. 73 percent of millennials support LGBT nondiscrimination, according to Public Religion Research Institute. Surely, they use it as one criterion when deciding where to work.

Negative national headlines on religious freedom continue to fuel a negative image of the entire party. Both in my private conversations with and in public (and private) polling, conservatives are moving ever closer to supporting full equity for LGBT Americans.

Shockingly, it’s still legal in the United States of America, even as we may be on the brink of having marriage equality in all 50 states, to fire and evict gay and transgender folks — and kick them out of a restaurant — simply for being who they are. This is patently wrong and needs to be fixed.

Democrats and Big Business are at work fixing it, together. That would have been an odd pairing years ago. The GOP position is untenable — and out of step with one of its key constituencies. It’s time to stand up to the social conservative wing and move into the future.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

If the Supreme Court rules for same-sex marriages, it will be possible (indeed likely) that some men and women will return from their honeymoons to find they have been fired in the states where discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation remains legal.