Pocket pincher

LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales (The Freeman) - January 30, 2016 - 9:00am

Here's proof that discrimination against LGBT's hurts.  Not just the LGBT's feelings (or chances for promotion, constitutional freedoms, or even life and liberty), but the pockets of the discriminating person (which we shall call the 'discriminator', for ease of reference).

According to an article on Advocate.com, "a new study from Visit Indy - Indianapolis's convention and tourism organization - found that Indiana lost at least $60 million in revenue after lawmakers there passed the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which gave businesses the green light to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds."

You see, the main tenet of this Indiana law (the RFRA) was that somehow, all this gay activism had diminished the religious freedoms of Indiana residents, and so in order to restore them to where they were before, Indiana's legislators and ultimately, the governor, approved a law that allowed Indiana businesses, if they felt like turning away gay customers from their establishments because gayhood somehow offended their religious beliefs, to indeed boot out the gays and lesbians from their premises.

In essence, all a discriminatory proprietor had to do, if he couldn't stand the thought of icky gay guys holding hands or smooching in his restaurant, would be to declare that he was a firm believer in a religion that was anti-gay, and he would be protected by Indiana law if he shut his doors against the invasion of these gay customers threatening to spend their evil money on his pure as dove establishment (the nerve of these pansies!).

Of course, that provoked an outcry.  Businesses reacted, including American Airlines. Even the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post that decried the bill and took the politicians to task for turning their backs on the basic tenets of American society, of justness and fairness, that should be the fabric of every modern society.  (Pretty brave for Tim Cook, who only recently came out of the closet and has now taken a very visible and vocal role in promoting LGBT rights).

That didn't scare the politicians, even as many activists and ideologists protested the legal and philosophical bases for the RFRA law.  The Indiana Hoosiers manned up and bit the bullet.

And now, we can see it's not just rhetoric that piled up after the kerfuffle.  Economic damage is being wrought against the state of Indiana, and why not?  After all, the state has to compete for the pink dollar, together with the rest of the world, and sending unwelcome signals like this to the market can only result in unfavorable comparisons being made.

Remember, Singapore had to take its foot off the anti-gay ideology when it started its tourism campaign.  The pink dollar was an acknowledged potential gold mine the Singaporeans fully intended to pump, and so the tourists came, with gay bars, art shows, pride parades, and many other attractions one would not have thought possible in the uptight Singapore that existed a couple of decades ago.

How painful will this lesson to Indiana be?  Hard to predict, but the initial estimates last year by a think tank (Center for American Progress) was that the damage to Indiana would be something like a quarter of a billion.  It's been less than a year, and that number now seems pretty achievable.

However, the lesson is taking its time to be learned, as more anti gay bills that will make discriminators happy have been introduced in the halls of Indiana's legislators.  There's even one bill that reportedly will criminalize transgenders for using public restrooms that they aren't supposed to be using.

(Er, which one?  The male toilet, the female powder room, or will the state provide mandatory transgender restrooms so the transgenders will know which one to use? And how will they define "transgenders," when even the LGBT community is debating and resisting all these categories that are neatly boxing them into preset definitions? Good luck with the drafting of the bill on this one.)

So meanwhile, it's wait and see where Indiana will end up in the realm of constitutional liberties.  And while it's on its journey towards self discovery, there's little hope I'll be around to share Indiana's experience.  Much more attractive destinations beckon. (Hey, did you hear the story that Vietnam already repealed all its laws that prohibit gay marriage? Checking it out...)



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