Why Gay Rights Are Good for BusinessRoundup: Historians' Take
tags: gay rights
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. His books include Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory.
Check out those homophobes in Arizona! They’re like white racists in the Jim Crow South! So declared a chorus of my fellow liberals last week, after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill to protect businesses who turned away clients on the basis of owners’ “sincerely held” religious beliefs. Although the law did not mention homosexuals, it clearly aimed to defend enterprises that refused to serve gays. Its rationale seemed to echo racial segregationists from the pre-1960s South: If I run a business, I get to determine who can patronize it.
But the segregationist case was always more about cold hard cash that it was about racial prejudice and the rights of Southern whites to practice it. Despite their nods to “freedom of association” and the like, Southern businesses sought to maintain segregation because they thought it would be good for business. And when they realized they were wrong, they backed off.
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