In the US, the private sector is protecting the civil rights of LGTBQ citizens

Signal of change / In the US, the private sector is protecting the civil rights of LGTBQ citizens

By Callum Watts / 05 May 2016

Legislation passed by North Carolina and Mississippi’s state legislatures in March forbids transgender individuals from using bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. North Carolina has also made it unlawful for local legislatures to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In response to the failure of the state or federal government to protect these rights, a raft of large corporations including Deutsche Bank and PayPal have taken matters into their own hands by boycotting the state or taking their business elsewhere. In a statement on their website, PayPal CEO Dan Schulman writes, “The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture.  As a result, PayPal will not move forward with our planned expansion into Charlotte. This decision reflects PayPal’s deepest values and our strong belief that every person has the right to be treated equally, and with dignity and respect."

So what?

As parts of the United States' political landscape become polarized and dysfunctional, it's failing to keep up with social norms and protect the rights of some of its citizens. In this case large corporations have taken up the mantle of standing up for them, because many of those affected are or could be potential customers and employees.

This looks like a sign that powerful private actors are increasingly willing to not just publicly take stands on issues of ethical and political significance, but also to throw their economic weight behind making change happen.

While it is commendable in this case, it does raise further issues. Is it appropriate for national or transnational corporations to subvert local democratically enacted laws? Are there questions of accountability to consider?

Image credit: Blanca Florance / Flickr

Sources

Paypal.com (April 5, 2016) Pay Pal withdraws plan for Charlotte expansion

The New York Times (March 25th, 2016) Transgender Laws Make North Carolina a Pioneer in Bigotry

What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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