Transformation and victory
The last couple of weeks have offered a powerful affirmation of just how normative the acceptance of homosexuality has become even in the US. The legislatures of three states -- Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina -- passed "religious freedom" laws protecting the "right" of Christian-owned businesses to discriminate against gay customers. Perhaps they had forgotten the massive business backlash that forced Indiana Republicans to back down after passing a similar law a year ago. If so, they were swiftly reminded.
Georgia was hit from both ends of the cultural spectrum. Disney, which had filmed movies there before, warned that it would no longer do so if Governor Nathan Deal signed the legislation into law -- and the NFL threatened to boycott the state. Deal vetoed the bill.
Mississippi's bill has already become law, but a broad coalition of major companies has already demanded its repeal (found via Progressive Eruptions), and it will be difficult for even Republican leaders in the country's poorest and least-developed state to hold out against such pressure.
North Carolina, whose law is the most draconian of all (it even prohibits local governments from protecting gays against discrimination) is facing the possible loss of various federal funds as well as a corporate backlash and bans on official travel from several other jurisdictions. Bruce Springsteen canceled a planned concert there (and got this snotbubble all honked off at him). PayPal has abandoned plans for a new operations center in the state, which would have created 400 jobs.
(Bigots have whinged that PayPal continues to do business with some foreign countries which treat gays far worse than North Carolina does, and this does superficially seem like a legitimate claim of inconsistency. However, the goal here is not just to make some meaningless "statement" of pro-gay moral purity, but to actually do some good. It's vanishingly unlikely that PayPal pulling out of Saudi Arabia would force any change in that regime's murderous anti-gay policies, whereas boycotting North Carolina might actually accomplish something. The day will soon come, though, when we need to start looking at sustained boycotts as a tool to force change in theocratic countries where gays and women are oppressed. It worked in South Africa -- eventually.)
The striking thing about this backlash is how major corporations have taken a leading role in it. Some companies, like Disney and PayPal, have an established gay-friendly track record. But for many, it's about the bottom line. Defending gay rights is popular; appearing to endorse the bigots is bad for business. And this is what shows most clearly how massive this cultural transformation has been. For most major companies, being linked with anti-gay prejudice is bad for business -- only because most people are now repulsed by such bigotry.
For centuries, the Christian taboo on homosexuality meant that gays were ostracized and rejected (and often much worse). Now, that very same taboo means that the religious hard-liners who try to uphold it are the ones being ostracized and rejected. They've lost the culture war and are reduced to pleading for a few scraps and crumbs of bigotry to be preserved in their defeat -- and as the experience of these three states and Indiana last year shows, we are strong enough now to deny them even that.
I'm declaring victory, not in the whole war, but in a very decisive battle.