I’m an Arizona businessperson and, yes, profits are important to me. A thriving business needs solid financials but I believe it also needs something else: respect and a culture that encourages the fair treatment of all people.
I’m thrilled that Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed Arizona’s SB 1062, a law that could turn our free exercise clause on its head, transforming religious liberty from a shield into a sword, and I’m proud that Arizona’s business community and corporations across the nation forcefully spoke against this bill. Gov. Brewer was swayed by corporate arguments that SB 1062 is scaring off business and resulting in lost revenue, hurting Arizona’s “brand,” and placing businesses at risk of costly litigation.
But the consequences sparking outrage shouldn’t all be about the bottom line. Offering religious liberty as a cause of action in a lawsuit even if the government isn’t a party to the proceeding puts at risk the years of hard work that scores of businesses in Arizona have put into building accepting cultures and instituting policies that prevent employees and managers from discriminating against people on many bases, including sexual orientation.
SB 1062 and bills like it threaten to undermine inclusive companies by placing private businesses in the position of defending their own nondiscrimination policies and the government’s interest in treating all of us equally.
To resist this effort, officials in states like Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas will need to hear from their business owners and operators. They’ll need to hear about the impact on companies that such discriminatory legislation could have. But it’s a shame businesses will have to talk largely about the financial implications of bills like this, and not the threat to workplace equality, in order to persuade legislators.
Every day this week, before Gov. Brewer’s veto, gay and lesbian Arizonans and their allies waved placards reading “Bad4Biz” outside the Arizona Capitol. It’s a shame we’re still so far from understanding equality in this country that those signs couldn’t simply say “Bad4Us.”
Entrepreneur Eric Crown is a founder of Arizona-based Insight Enterprises Inc., a Fortune 500 company, and other businesses. His companies employ several thousand people in Arizona.
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