Corporations are people. It’s what is called ‘legal fiction,’ a conceit that somehow we’ve all been signed on to without having a say in the matter. Of course corporations are not real people, but are allowed to act as such under certain circumstances, warping law, capitalism, and democracy in the process. They have rights without responsibilities, free speech but far more political power than a citizen. It’s a bit like giving a four year old a chainsaw. I don’t recommend this, by the way, unless you like radical room redecoration and explaining why the hamster can’t be fixed.
This is not to say that an upside to the disproportionate power of corporate personhood cannot exist; take the pro-LGBT statements by Salesforce in reaction to what’s been happening in Indiana. Right wing lawmakers all over the United States have been cackling with glee recently as they have finally found a way to push back against LGBT rights. Thanks to SCOTUS and the Hobby Lobby, the right is hiding their bigotry under ‘religious freedom’ bills. This is another occasion where a bill is named for exactly the opposite of its intended consequences, political doublespeak used as a shield. Remember that Ruth Ginsberg opposed the Hobby Lobby ruling and said it would create havoc? It has.
These bills are neither based in religion nor freedom. Religion is about peace and tolerance and the whole loving-your-neighbour thing, so the ‘religious’ part is struck down right away, as these laws are about neither tolerance nor love at all. As for freedom, the bills are intended to remove the rights of LGBT citizens of the United States, so I’m fairly sure we can agree that goes against freedom. Yet here we are, with twenty-eight states introducing eighty-five ‘religious freedom’ laws. The rest of the world looks on in bafflement (aside from Russia, who we assume are quite gleeful).
Thirty-four of the bills have already been defeated, but two have succeeded in Arkansas and Indiana. The latter, bill #SB101, was just signed by Governor Pence, who is considering a bid for the 2016 Republican candidate nomination for President. He tried something similar in 2014, but it was beaten back by a coalition of Democrats and businesses. As the bill came close to being signed, businesses within Indiana started talking about the consequences that come along with ‘the refusal to serve LGBT people law’. GenCon, as recently discussed on TMS, was outspoken against the bill.
“Legislation that could allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees will have a direct negative impact on the state’s economy, and will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the State of Indiana in future years.”
It’s pretty clear GenCon are not holding back here. The backlash, though, is just starting, as heavyweight Salesforce has decided to get involved. You might not know Salesforce; it’s a global company headquarterd in San Francisco, and it has a market cap of over 43 billion USD. Salesforce is the global leader in Customer Relationship Management technology, with over 12,000 staff, and it’s closely linked to both Oracle and Google. It’s also come out strongly against Pence’s LGBT discrimination bill. Really strongly.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has tweeted that they “are forced to dramatically reduce our investment in I[ndiana] based on our employee’s & customers outrage over the Religious Freedom Bill.” He goes on to cancel all programs that require Salesforce employees and customers travelling to Indiana. He ends with a call for other tech giants to [sic] “pay attn to what is happening in IN & how it will impact your employees & customers.” So a global corporation, imbued with the conceit of personhood and a huge bank account, is speaking out for minorities because they have free speech, and encouraging other tech behemoths to get involved.
The question then becomes: will other corporations follow suit? Starbucks, you need something positive after your recent race debacle, get on board! Yelp, that questionable place of questionable reviews, has said they will not ‘expand in any state that has these kinds of laws.’ OK Yelp, I get you want to join in, here, but this is a pretty ineffective try. I’ll give you a C+ for effort. Hillary Clinton has spoken out against the bill, as have a number of celebs including George Takei. The hashtag #boycottindiana is trending across Twitter, but I have mixed feelings on this as many places need supporting, like http://www.indianatransgenderwellness.org.
Pro-LGBT politicians are the ones that are successfully killing these fake-religion bills. In Georgia, a pro-LGBT Rep. Senator Mike Jacobs (I hope he’s not too lonely) added an amendment that states the proposed bill cannot in any way be used to discriminate. Despite earlier arguments by the pro-bigotry Rep. Senators that the bill was not intended to discriminate, they are now complaining that the amendment has ‘gutted the bill’ and it looks like the bill will now die. In Oklahoma Dem. Senator Emily Virgin defeated a similar bill by added an amendment that said businesses had to state they were bigots, both online and physically on stores. Although wanting to be bigots, they didn’t want to be seen as bigots, so the bill was killed.
Pence’s bill in Indiana succeeded. but I’ve not been able to find an estimation of how much this bill will this cost the state of Indiana. The damage in terms of both reputation and financial consequences could be significant. It’s in the high hundreds of millions at least. How many people will avoid moving to Indiana, how many will avoid working there, or investing or even opening a business. How many people will move away? How much did this cost the state government to debate and implement? Of course all of the potential impacts will have been documented and assessed by the State Government, right? Well no, I’ve found no study by Indiana’s state government on the potential financial impact of implementing this anti-LGBT law.
If this bill falls flat in Indiana and they have to backpedal then it sets the tone that both citizens and businesses want no part of this kind of legislation. The danger is if this isn’t seen as a disaster and the SCOTUS Hobby Lobby insanity continues to expand. If GenCon doesn’t follow through and Salesforce stands alone, the religious fundamentalists’ win is going to have a chilling effect on LGBT rights for years to come. We’ve not seen the last of these doublespeak bills that claim freedom as they strip citizens of their rights, but at least so far success and history are on our side. We’ll get a lot further faster if corporations that, lets face it, are normally the bad guys, start using their personhood to stand against discrimination.
Salesforce is not perfect by any means, but they are in the right here ,and deserve support and thanks. I’m against corporate personhood – I think it’s a most ridiculous of concepts – but while it still exists it should be used for good. Governor Pence, you have 27% support for your discrimination while 69% of the American populace wants to make any and all LGBT discrimination illegal; major businesses are against you; the world is looking on with disbelief, and you are costing Indiana a fortune. It’s time to repair the damage you have caused to Indiana. The people in your state didn’t deserve this.
Marcy (@marcyjcook) is an immigrant trans woman and writer. This includes Transcanuck.com, a website dedicated to informing and helping trans Canadians. She also has a nerd job, too many cats, is a part time volunteer sex educator and has an ongoing sordid love affair with Lego. Those last two are not related… probably.
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