Former State Representative Lary Swoboda came to mind this past week concerning Indiana Governor Mike Pence signing a bill into law that will allow companies to turn away gay and lesbian customers on the grounds of religious freedom.
Swoboda, who I worked with for a decade in the Wisconsin State Assembly, often told the story of his classroom the afternoon President Kennedy was shot and killed in Texas. As the children all prepared to depart early from school due to the national crisis a girl walked up and asked “Why do people hate?”
The was the question then, and it remains the question now.
I recall Swoboda tried to answer that child by saying that hate is something hard to fight, but we always must try to do that when we can.
Which is exactly what we must do as Americans when it comes to this anti-gay law. There will be all sorts of legal tactics taken and plenty of reason to fight for the removal of this law in one way or another. There will be court challenges, to be sure. There are also political calls made for action.
But if look like the best way to hamstring this bigoted law is to use the economic juice of the state as our tool, as least for the beginning of this fight. Taking a look at the landscape of miffed and angry business leaders must make for queasy feelings in Pence’s office.
Mark Benioff, CEO of cloud computing company Salesforce is upset. Max Levchin, CEO of HVF (Hard Valuable Fun) and PayPal founder is not pleased. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, a non-profit organization that’s scheduled to host the Men’s Final Four basketball championship in Indiana later this month, also expressed concerns. The National Football League could threaten to move the annual NFL Draft Combine from Indianapolis or not award future Super Bowls to the city over the legislation. George Takei wrote on Facebook there could be a boycott of Indianapolis’ annual gaming convention, GenCon, over the law.
Pence knew this law was so awful and indefensible that he had to sign it in a private ceremony with no media coverage. That is certainly a sign that the measure should have just been flushed. Pence of course is a conservative tool and has not enough mental ability to recognize that fact.
The Indiana law is a quintessential example of reactionary policy in that is a reaction to the increasing recognition coast-to-coast that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people deserve equal protection under the law. The trend encompasses the expanding legalization of same-sex marriage, and in fact just last week the Senate approved a measure that would extend to same-sex couples the right to spousal Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits no matter what state they live in. The 57-43 vote was bipartisan, with 11 Republican senators joining Democrats in the majority.
Some parts of the country are moving ahead. Indiana and Pence are going in the opposite direction.
Lets unite and fight this battle. We have fought and won larger ones.