The power of money

The power of money

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Amid what feels like an uptick in the opposition to the LGBTQIA community, big businesses are forcing states like Tennessee and Texas to evaluate anti-LGBTQ measures.

In a capitalist society, an economic threat is perhaps the greatest. In 2015, it was Subaru that forced Indiana’s former governor, Mike Pence, to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.

North Carolina faced backlash in 2016 when the state approved a law that restricted bathroom use for transgender people. Businesses boycotted the state, and NBA and NCAA games alike were rescheduled in different states.

In Tennessee, several bills affecting LGBTQIA folks will be voted on soon, including those related to adoption for same-sex couples and bathroom use in schools that would impact transgender students.

So far, Nike, Amazon, Marriott Hotels, Lyft, Hilton, Warner Music Group, AllianceBernstein and Warby Parker, among others, have signed a letter criticizing Tennessee’s proposed bills. And, like in North Carolina, athletic organizations including The Tennessee Titans and Nashville Predators have joined the resistance.

In Texas, Amazon, Dell, Apple and Facebook warned legislators that the passing of Bill 17 could create economic consequences. The bill allows occupational-license holders to cite “sincerely held religious beliefs” if and when their licensing is at risk due to professional behavior or speech, inevitably giving cover to professionals who might deny services to the LGBTQ community.

While the bill passed, it is yet to be seen what economic ramifications will exist and how long the bill will be in place. North Carolina lost an estimated $3.76 billion before the measure was repealed in 2017.

Ten years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that big business would play such a role in protecting the LGBTQ community. During a time when the alt-right is becoming more vocal, vitriolic and violent toward the LGBTQ community — largely due to the Trump administration’s rhetoric — the threat of economic harm is a new resistance.

If nothing else, this might be a sign of change. While Apple has a personal investment with Tim Cook as the openly gay CEO, for many businesses this is a financial decision driven by consumerism. 

These companies feel that it is financially beneficial to speak out against discrimination rather than support it.

Capitalism, as we know it in the U.S., is an overall detriment to underserved communities, disproportionately affecting immigrants, folks of color, and, even still, the LGBTQIA population, making it absurd that we are in a position to rely on it, rather than humanity, to fight discriminatory laws. 

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