Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Quote for the Day: "#‎ItsNotOver The Backlash Is Getting Underway. Just look at Arkansas and Kansas"

In a statement she published yesterday at the Huffington Post site, Dana Beyer suggests that it's not yet time to party — as in, to celebrate the victory of gay rights in the United States — because, well, Arkansas. Beyer notes that while some of us are already jubilating over what we imagine to be an irreversible tide of support for the human rights of LGBT citizens of the U.S., others are very busy setting into place mechanisms of ugly backlash that have radically unhappy consequences for LGBT people in some parts of the country.

#‎ItsNotOver The backlash is getting underway. Just look at Arkansas and Kansas. And our leaders are not prepared.

Beyer adds, 

[I]f the national community leadership is still looking for "What's next?" here is your answer: We've got to convince the governor [of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson] to veto this bill [SB 202, the "right-to-discriminate" bill just passed by the Arkansas legislature] or pay the consequences, and we need to engage the business community -- Walmart, Acxiom, Whirlpool, Tysons Food -- to make it very clear just how severe those consequences will be. We need President Clinton and presidential candidate Clinton to weigh in to let the state know just how embarrassing their behavior is, and we need HRC President Chad Griffin, who has spoken eloquently about the loneliness of growing up a gay boy in Arkansas, to mobilize his organization's resources.

As Chris Hughes pointed out in comments here yesterday, an online campaign has been organized to urge Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson to veto SB 202. Information about that campaign is here. As you'll see if you click for information, one suggestion it offers is to tweet Governor Hutchinson (@AsaHutchinson), using the hashtag #‎SB202, to tell him that the right-to-discriminate legislation needs to be vetoed. 

Kristina Eckelhoff has also placed a petition to Governor Hutchinson online at, which you may choose to sign if you feel so inclined. I'll be honest and say I'd be very surprised to see Asa Hutchinson veto this legislation, which is wildly popular in Arkansas. Though I suspect he knows full well it will be subject to legal challenges after it's enacted as law, and may very well be thrown out as unconstitutional — at great expense to one of the poorest states in the nation — he won't lift a finger to oppose legislation passed by his own party as it seeks to throw red meat to its conservative evangelical base, which dominates the political life of Arkansas.

The most successful approach to getting people to recognize the dangers of the right-to-discriminate legislation in Arkansas is via the business community, as Dana Beyer notes.* However, up to the present, as Josh Israel notes, the business community in Arkansas has been totally silent — as conspicuously silent as it was in the 1950s when the then Arkansas governor Orval Faubus blocked the federally mandated integration of Central High School in Little Rock.

As Jeff Guo pointed out yesterday for Washington Post, the legislators who crafted the Arkansas bill have proclaimed, in fact, that it will be good for business:

It’s called the "Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act," and it’s written in the key of dog-whistle. The bill contends that, in order for the state to attract businesses, each of its cities and counties must follow the same rules about who they permit discrimination against. 
Practically speaking, the bill would prevent any city or county from extending civil rights protections to gay people—as the town of Fayetteville, Ark. tried to do last year. Residents there scrapped the law through a ballot initiative in December. But that same day, State Sen. Bart Hester (R ) tweeted out that regardless of how the vote turned out, "the AR legislature will pass legislation to repeal this type of ordinance. I suspect with a super majority."

Make no mistake about it: this legislation is payback for the chutzpah of the city council of the moderately liberal university community of Fayetteville, when it passed an ordinance protecting the LGBT community from discrimination — an ordinance that conservative evangelicals led by Michelle Duggar helped vote down last fall. It's also payback for the decision of Arkansas judge Chris Piazza to strike down the state's ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. And if it can succeed in convincing enough corporations and businesses that it's a template for good business practice, then it portends a world of trouble not just for Arkansas, but for the whole nation.

Did I say that this legislation, with its faith-based gay-bashing dog whistles and red meat for the base, is wildly popular in a state in which evangelical churches strongly influence the political sector and have had a decisive influence in turning Arkansas into a red state after the election of Barack Obama in 2008? It's entirely possible that the rest of the country will look at what's happening right now in tiny, backwards, impoverished, uneducated Arkansas and shrug its shoulders.

I suggest, though, that this is an inadequate response to what may well be the future of the whole country unfolding before your eyes, if you merely open them a bit. Because those right-wing faith-based voters who intend to make life as miserable as possible in every way possible for the gays, and to enshrine theocratic policies and ideas in the civil laws of the United States: they're hardly confined to tiny Arkansas . . . . 

And they have big money behind them.

P.S. Please see this posting which is a footnote with an extended discussion of the silence of state and national business leaders about Arkansas's right-to-discriminate legislation.

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