Love, Inc

The intersections of emotion and capitalism.

GOPutin

Sometimes it's difficult to see a difference between GOP lawmakers and Putin.

In Russia, the patriot is always straight. To be otherwise is to be a form of foreign infection, a threat to "real" Russians as dangerous as Ukrainian nationalists. Yet some GOP lawmakers are acting far more in line with Putin-style punishment of all things gay. In the past month, there has been a whole spate of "the GOP is doing what?" face-palm-inducing anti-gay bills introduced in legislatures around the country.

At the beginning of the year, Kansas tried to pass a law that would have allowed anyone—including government employees—to refuse service to gay and lesbian couples as long as that person said they had a religious objection to homosexuality. Republicans have introduced similar bills in Idaho, South Dakota and Tennessee. According to an article in Mother Jones about these new "Jim Crow-style" anti gay laws, even more states are trying something similar with 

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Arizona, Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Mississippi... introduc(ing) broader "religious freedom" bills with a unique provision that would also allow people to deny services or employment to LGBT Americans, legal experts say.

In Arizona last week Republican Jan Brewer vetoed SB1062, but not before all but 3 Arizona Republicans in the legislature voted to pass it. SB 1062, according to CNN, would have allowed

business owners to deny service to gay and lesbian customers so long as proprietors were acting solely on their religious beliefs.  

Just this week, legislators in South Carolina are trying to punish the College of Charleston and the university of South Carolina Upstate because of the books they assigned to incoming students. The books, Alison Bechdel's Fun Home and, Out Loud, a book about the stat's first gay and lesbian radio show, contain gay and lesbian themes and therefore the GOP legislators wish to punish the schools for assigning them to incoming first-year students. According to Rep. Garry Smith (R)

"I think the university has to be reasonable and sensible to the feelings and beliefs of their students. That was totally ignored here. I was trying to hold the university accountable... Their stance is 'Even if you don't want to read it, we'll shove it down your throat.' It's not academic freedom -- it's academic totalitarianism."

All of these laws seem to be part of a national effort by the GOP to create a legal environment in which gayness does not pollute straightness. According to the GOP logic, if religious people have to provide goods and services to homosexuals, some sort of pollution or violation will have occurred. Bake a cake for a gay wedding and you'll wake up gay. Provide a lesbian with state-sponsored employment services and suddenly you're a lesbian. Have university students read books with gay characters? It will turn them gay. 

Or maybe the fear among the GOP is not so much that interacting with homosexuality will turn you gay—as many Russians sincerely believe—but turn you humane. Like reading a book with a sympathetic lesbian narrator might help you understand the common humanity of gay and straight Americans alike. 

Whatever the reason that the GOP is trying to pass laws that will prevent "gay propaganda" or even just services for gays and lesbians, it's good to see that in the US the almighty dollar is still king. In many places these anti-gay laws would just be far too costly. In Arizona, for instance, passage of SB1062 could have cost the state the Super Bowl not to mention major conventions. Similar concern from the business community in Kansas stopped that law in its tracks. As Bloomberg Business put it, 

Companies from Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) to AT&T Inc. (T) are lobbying state legislators across the country saying laws perceived as anti-gay are bad for business.

Bad for business is enough, for now, to defeat most of these laws in the US. Of course, if anti-gay discrimination ever becomes good for business, we will end up living in a country that looks more and more like Putin's anti-gay Russia.

Laurie Essig, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology and women and gender studies at Middlebury College.

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