A number of Southern states have recently made a point to codify the right of individuals and businesses to discriminate against those who offend their religious sensibilities. These laws mirror earlier attempts to ban same-sex marriage and, before that, to ban things like desegregation and interracial marriage. In the past, corporate America would either have supported these laws or at the very least maintained silence. Lately, more and more companies have spoken out against these blatant attempts to discriminate.
While it would be wonderful to imagine a world where this represented the growth of decency, kindness and morality among business leaders, it is just as likely a response to the changing profitability of discrimination. In seeking the repeal of a North Carolina law forbidding municipalities from extending protection against discrimination beyond state guidelines, Bank of America declared the law “bad for our employees and bad for business.” When a company can expect to lose quality employees and customers by discriminating or tolerating discrimination, it is more likely to act.
Pressure from businesses was likely a significant factor in the veto of a discriminatory law in the guise of “religious liberty” in Georgia this past week. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal heard the cries of prominent businesses loud and clear and responded by squashing the bill passed by members of his own party. When Disney, the NFL, NBA, MLB and Coca-Cola openly speak out against a law, it becomes easier to do what’s right.
The goal is to end discrimination. The goal is to improve the lives of people who have traditionally faced enormous obstacles to simply live their lives. Protecting people from discrimination is the right thing to do. That’s the real bottom line.
Source: The New York Times, “Corporations No Longer Sit Idly By on Discrimination,” by James B. Stewart, 31 March 2016