Bruce Springsteen, a.k.a The Boss, recently stated,
It’s the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who won’t recognize the human rights of all of our citizens.
Springsteen recently cancelled his nearly sold-out tour in North Carolina, opposing the now infamous HB2 law or the “Bathroom Law”. The law requires that transgender people only use bathrooms corresponding with their sex at birth. Officials have estimated a loss of $100,000 in net revenue because of the cancellation of the Springsteen concert. Other artists including Ringo Starr, Pearl Jam, and Ani DiFranco also canceled shows in North Carolina in response to HB2. Sadly, the intolerance seems to be growing, with 44 similar anti-transgender bills are being considered in at least 17 US states.
Mississippi’s Reckless Discrimination
In mid-April 2016, Mississippi’s Governor, Phil Bryant signed the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”, allowing businesses and religious organizations to refuse service to gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgenders, couples having sex outside marriage etc. Proponents say the Act protects the religious freedom, as defined in Section 2 of the Act:
“The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that:
(a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman;
(b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and
(c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”
In other words, businesses in Mississippi can deny basic services such as baking cake for gay weddings, serving transgenders at a restaurant, and hiring bisexual job candidates. The Act, is sadly a sanction to openly discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community, or against couples who may not believe in traditional institution of marriage.
The tech sector reacted sternly. Companies like Toyota, Nissan, Tyson Foods, and MGM Resorts International opposed the bill. CEOs from several large tech companies like Salesforce, IBM, Microsoft etc, have taken to social media and press meets to openly criticize regressive social steps taken by State Governments in Mississippi, Georgia and North Carolina.
Earlier this month, Georgia’s Republican Governor Nathan Deal stated he was facing increasing pressure from the Tech sector and vetoed a similar “religious liberties” bill.
North Carolina’s Discriminatory Woes
In March 2015, North Carolina had passed a bill allowing magistrates to opt out of performing marriages against their religious beliefs, including same-sex, interfaith, or interracial marriages.
Since then, the Tech industry has relentlessly put the economic pressure on North Carolina. Angie’s List put a $40 million expansion on hold. Salesforce a $4 billion employer in Indiana, applied pressure on the Governor, though the law wasn’t repealed.
Recently in April 2016, PayPal cancelled it’s $3.6 million project in North Carolina, expected to bring in 400 new jobs. 120 companies have signed the petition to repeal the law. Indiana is feeling the pain, with many conferences being cancelled and economic expansion suffering.
When asked about PayPal’s decision about pulling out investment in North Carolina, the disagreeable Governor Pat McCrory stated, “I respect disagreement.”
Progressives across the U.S. are raising awareness and their voice against such discriminatory laws. For example, Sarah McBride posted this picture from a bathroom she’s not allowed to use under the HB2 law.
Here I am using a women's restroom in North Carolina that I'm technically barred from being in. They say I'm a pervert. They say I'm a man dressed as a woman. They say I'm a threat to their children. They say I'm confused. They say I'm dangerous. And they say accepting me as the person I have fought my life to be seen as reflects the downfall of a once great nation. I'm just a person. We are all just people. Trying to pee in peace. Trying to live our lives as fully and authentically as possible. Barring me from this restroom doesn't help anyone. And allowing me to continue to use this bathroom – just without fear of discrimination and harassment – doesn't hurt anyone. Stop this. We are good people. #repealhb2
Unlike Indiana, Mississippi does not have a significant Tech sector presence. However, Mississippi is also one of the poorest American states, with high unemployment and racial strains. Such backward anti-gay laws will not help Mississippi’s economic woes!
Change is Inevitable
Mahatma Gandhi once said:
Be the change you want to see in the world.
The opposition shown by the Tech Industry is a prime example of using economic power and technological clout for good, an example where Capitalism can be an agent for social change.
The socially liberal Tech companies are challenging the religious intolerance and conservatism in the American heartland and south. Strong messages from the Tech companies about economic consequences might finally propel the much needed social change!
- Mississippi HB1523SG – http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2016/pdf/HB/1500-1599/HB1523SG.pdf
- Georgia HB757 Bill – http://legislativenavigator.myajc.com/#bills/HB/757
- Anti-Gay Laws Bring Backlash in Mississippi and North Carolina – http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/06/us/gay-rights-mississippi-north-carolina.html?_r=0
- Bruce Springsteen Cancels Show in North Carolina To Protest ‘Bathroom Bill’
- North Carolina and Mississippi See Tourist Backlash After L.G.B.T. Laws