Since the last installment of this column, Mississippi has joined North Carolina in enacting a sweeping anti-LGBT law. Laughably titled the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” the law permits discrimination against LGBT state residents on the basis of three religious beliefs: that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman, that sex is only permissible within such a marriage, and that a person’s gender is defined by his or her anatomy at birth. Combined with the furor over North Carolina’s similar law, the battle over LGBT rights has dominated the nation’s headlines to a degree not seen since the Supreme Court’s landmark June 2015 ruling which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
Leading the outcry against these anti-LGBT laws have been many of America’s largest corporations, with the boldest move taken by PayPal, who immediately announced the cancellation of a major expansion in Charlotte, North Carolina’s most-populous city. Conservative and religious groups pounced and many called for a boycott of PayPal, despite maintaining PayPal donation pages on their websites. Hate group leader Tony Perkins denounced PayPal as having committed “economic blackmail” against North Carolina, despite his own organization’s years-long history of “blackmailing” corporations with boycotts for having dared to publicly endorse same-sex marriage and LGBT rights.
Days after PayPal’s announcement, rock legend Bruce Springsteen added fuel to the furor when he abruptly cancelled a sold out concert in North Carolina, declaring in a statement that “some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them.” Springsteen’s action, unsurprisingly, drew wide praise from the left and condemnation from the right, with several leading conservatives declaring that Springsteen had betrayed his famously working class fan base. A US congressman representing North Carolina even went as far as calling Springsteen a “bully.”
Springsteen’s move proved to be only the first in a flurry of actions against North Carolina by the entertainment industry. Ringo Starr soon followed by cancelling his own concert. Broadway legend Stephen Schwartz declared that none of his shows would be licensed for production in the state. Cirque Du Soleil canceled a 15-show run in three cities. Longtime LGBT ally Cyndi Lauper announced that profits from her North Carolina concert would go to a local civil rights group. And 80s icons Duran Duran paused their sold-out concert in Charlotte to advocate for LGBT rights and sign a petition supporting a repeal of the law.
The still-growing cascade of entertainment repercussions came as city and business leaders across North Carolina expressed anguish over the loss of conventions and trade shows, many of which are facing pressure from progressive activists. In Charlotte, that city’s leading trade group announced the cancellations or loss of at least 13 conventions, a cost to the local economy that may reach into tens of millions of dollars. Some newspapers have editorialized that the snowballing financial cost of North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law should both prompt an immediate repeal and serve as a grim warning to other states that are considering such laws.
But tell that to North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who has made numerous media appearances to denounce the “smear campaign” against his state by “radical leftists.” Last week McCrory did hastily sign an anti-discrimination executive order that protects LGBT employees of the state, but the same order reaffirms the other anti-LGBT portions of the law. McCrory faces a tough reelection battle against North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, an LGBT ally who has refused to defend the law against a lawsuit filed by the ACLU. Expect major conservative and anti-LGBT groups from across the nation to lend support to McCrory’s campaign, both in a show of thanks for persecuting LGBT Americans and to prove that other politicians can do the same without losing their office.