The following guest post was written by my friend Chris Armstrong, Partnerships and Government Affairs Director for Small Business Majority. Chris was the former student body president of University of Michigan and experienced first hand the corrosive impacts of anti-gay bigotry at the hands of former state Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell who stalked and harassed him during his time at U of M. Armstrong sued Shirvell and ended up winning a $4.5 million judgment against him.
You can learn more about Small Business Majority HERE.
Around the country, we’re seeing a troubling trend of states passing laws that effectively legalize discrimination against LGBT people, sometimes known as religious exemption or religious freedom laws. The consequences of these laws are deep, and not just for members of the LGBT community. These laws pose a real threat to small businesses by making entire states inhospitable to loyal customers and talented employees. In Michigan, we need to protect our small businesses by putting a nondiscrimination policy in place and promoting a fair and open business community.
For small business owners, revenue is a primary concern. From restaurants to small accounting firms, small businesses depend on paying customers and hard-working employees to turn a profit each month. But small business owners know that discriminatory policies can cost them their best customers and employees, as they relocate to more welcoming areas. Plus, larger national corporations with diverse operations can be reluctant to work with small businesses in states that have passed anti-LGBT laws.
From Indiana to North Carolina, states are already seeing the broad economic impacts of discriminatory laws. After passing a religious exemption law, Indiana quickly lost nearly $60 million in revenue as major entertainers and industry groups canceled events in the state. In North Carolina, PayPal canceled the creation of 400 new jobs, and that’s surely only the beginning of the state’s economic fallout from a new anti-LGBT law. In Mississippi, more than 50 major business executives have signed an open letter in protest of a new religious exemption law in the state.
These consequences make it clear: anti-LGBT laws are damaging to state economies. And small business owners understand this fact – polling from Small Business Majority found two-thirds of small businesses say business owners shouldn’t be able to deny goods or services to LGBT individuals, and eight in 10 entrepreneurs support a federal law to protect LGBT individuals against discrimination in public accommodations, such as restaurants, hotels and other businesses that are open to the public. Additional polling found six in 10 Michigan small business owners believe their state should have a law prohibiting employment discrimination against LGBT people.
In Michigan, a statewide nondiscrimination policy would differentiate us from states that have anti-LGBT laws in place and show we’re a state that opens its doors for everyone. For small businesses, this means more customers and employees. It will also help us compete with our neighboring states, like Illinois, that have already adopted nondiscrimination laws.
The bottom line is that we can’t afford to go down the same path as states like Indiana and North Carolina. It’s time for us to say no to discrimination and say yes to prosperity by passing a nondiscrimination law and helping our small businesses thrive.