Gays and The South: The New Jim Crow

There is something sick and wrong going on in this country. Gays are being persecuted and subjugated just as much as they have been in the past. Only this time it’s not being done under the table. It’s being done right out in the open. By lawmakers. These lawmakers are shitting on the streak of progress that has been made lately in America, namely that of the legalization of Gay Marriage. These ignorant legislators are actively and openly seeking to take away the rights of a group of people whose culture values openness and acceptance and love and who deserve the same protections and freedoms under the law as everyone else. A number of Southern states have enacted legislation that gives any number of the following: permission to all sorts of health professionals in denying services to homosexuals; allowing individuals and institutions with religious objections to deny services to gay couples; permits business owners with broad application to deny homosexuals service; gives power to marriage insitutions to deny servies to homosexual couples.

The amazing thing is that something almost exactly like this happened 60 years ago in our country–just to a different group of people. Immediately after the US Supreme Court’s ruling on Brown vs Board of Education, which called for all public schools to be desegregated, Alabama lawmakers passed a series of laws intended to ignore the high court’s ruling–one of which established a procedure that would close any Alabama public school that even attempted to integrate; many of the other Southern states followed Alabama’s lead. The passing of laws meant to subjugate a certain group of people in the past, even after the highest court in the land had passed a ruling pertaining to the subjugation of said groups, compares amazingly to the situation going on right now with the LGBTQ community. Just like with the Supreme Court’s decision on Brown vs Board of Education, the highest court has already ruled: to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation is EXACTLY just as UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND ILLEGAL as discriminating against people because of their skin color. Period. What we are seeing is a resurgence of the Jim Crow laws, dressed up differently. As if these people (the South) just have to find a group of people to subjugate and treat with disdain. The other day I saw something that summed up the situation more than I ever could: it was a picture of an older lady holding a sign that read, “IT WASN’T ABOUT THE WATER FOUNTAINS THEN AND IT ISN’T ABOUT THE BATHROOMS NOW. STOP THE HATE.” This woman was drawing the same parallel that I’m drawing now–it was actually the inspiration for this blog post.

The states leading this despicable Jim Crow 2.0 charge are: North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Mississippi, and now Tennessee. The amazing thing is that these lawmakers from these states have an awful memory when it comes to history. When the lawmakers in the South tried to flout the ruling of the court, this gave the South a reputation as being a place crawling with bigots–people and businesses became reluctant to set up shop in a place known for intolerance and it took decades to undo the damage done by those elected “leaders.” The important thing to note is that this DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE ENTIRE SOUTH IS BIGOTED–surely, there are bigots in the South (they’re the ones running the South)–but there are also members of the LGBTQ community in the South, which means that there must certainly be a strong contingent of citizens in the South who support the LGBTQ community. This fact is important is because of how much financial impact is already happening to the South. Millions and most likely billions of dollars have already been taken out of the South, specifically North Carolina for its remarkably discriminatory bill against transgender individuals and homosexuals–PayPal elected not to extend its services to North Carolina, divesting millions of dollars from the state’s economy; Deutsche Bank on Tuesday said it would halt plans to add 250 new jobs in its Cary, North Carolina location, citing state legislation enacted in March that blocks anti-discrimination rules for gay and transgender people; in addition to this a number of musical acts and million dollar conferences have boycotted the state of North Carolina for the measures enacted by its lawmakers. Furthermore, major corporations have slammed the lawmakers’ decision publicly, including IBM, Google, and Facebook. Hopefully the people of these southern states will stand up and take back their legislatures and vote or oust their bigoted legislators. Mayors from major US cities including Seattle, San Francisco, and New York have banned all official travel to the places that have enacted discriminatory legislation.

The most recent anti-progress bill was signed just today by the Governor of Tennessee: SB 1556  was signed into law, the measure that allows counselors to deny services to clients based on the counselor’s “sincerely held principles”–the original wording of the bill allowed counselors to turn away clients based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” These measures are rooted in the dangerous misconception that religion can be used as a free pass to discriminate. To find out how you can help in the case of the Tennessee issue in particular, contact Lindsay Kee, ACLU-TN communications director, 615-320-7142.

Maybe we can look at the example set by a different, non-Southern state to determine the likelihood of a pattern developing between enacting bigoted legislation and losing money influx. Last year, the state of Indiana enacted anti-gay legislation–a year later, the tourism department (VisitIndy) reported the loss of 60 million dollars in convention and tourism revenue. The picture is clear and developing more and more all the time–the people of this country will not stand for discrimination of any kind and they are speaking with the thing that speaks (or swears) loudest–money. If the Southern legistlators are not careful, they are going to end up with a much more difficult economy on their hands than already exists–and all over the issue that Southern legislators claim is “religious”–just like the South still contends that the Civil War was about states’ rights!
The HUFFINGTON POST recently ran an article titled: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE 100+ ANTI-LGBT BILLS PENDING IN STATES. In reading this, I learned that there are more than 100 ACTIVE BILLS LIKE THE ONES PASSED BY THE STATES MENTIONED ABOVE. Some are bathroom bills, some let judges refuse to marry same-sex couples, some let businesses deny services to LGBT people–but they all have the same goal: legalizing discrimination against queer people. Another scary thing is that Democrats used to support bills of this same nature. These kinds of bills have far more support in places of power than we probably even know–Democrats far and wide now are for the most part too scared to support bills of this nature because they’ve seen the backlash from them. This is the pressure we need to continue to put on any legislator that attempts to push through these bills labeled “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” or anything of the kind.

If you, reader, want to do something about this, there are many things you can do. First of all, divest any funds from investments that go to companies based in those states that I mentioned above; decide against any travel to those aforementioned states as well; if you live in any of those states please write/call your legislators…ALL of them…the ones involved AND not involved in the enacting of this awful legislation. Go to your local Gay Pride Parade and march in solidarity with your brothers and sisters. Hell, run for fucking office, and run on a non-discrimination platform, especially if you’re in the South.Do something, do anything to show that shit kind of discrimination and prejudice will not stand. Don’t give in to apathy–just because they’re not attacking your rights now doesn’t mean they won’t come for them in the future.

Get up, Stand up.

-ry

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