retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB had a piece last week about legal battles taking place over the rights of businesses to deny service to people with whom they disagree on religious grounds - specifically, people engaged in same-sex relationships and marriages - and when this becomes the kind of discrimination forbidden by the US Constitution.

The flashpoint was a bill in Arizona that was passed by the legislature that would have allowed business owners to cite religious beliefs as legal justification for denying services to same-sex couples. Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill this week, at least in part because of pressures from business interests that were concerned about the impact of the decision, including the possibility that next year's Super Bowl could be moved out of the state to another location.

Just this week, I got an email from Cowboy Ciao, a Scottsdale restaurant (I'm on their email list), that referred to Arizona being "once again the national butt of jokes thanks to politics from the 1800s," and added, "To recap, we are apparently against immigrants, gays, lesbians, transgenders, drinkers, people of color, female golfers – did I leave anyone out?  Trombonists?" 

The point that we've been making all along here on MNB is that this is a business story - that companies need to think about how these various scenarios are playing out in their stores, because it could have major implications for how they are perceived in the community. And, it is not just an Arizona story; there also have been highly publicized similar cases in Colorado and New Mexico.

Politico this morning has a story about how, when Brewer was making up her mind about the Arizona bill, "business went DEFCON 1," lobbying furiously for a veto.

It is worth reading here.

An excerpt:

"What Arizona proved, as much as any other in recent American politics, is that there’s currently no more powerful constituency for gay rights than the Fortune 500 list.

"The corporate community’s engagement in the fight over S.B. 1062 was overpowering: American Express wrote to Brewer on Tuesday asking her to veto the law, according to a spokesman for the credit card company, which has a large presence in the state. JPMorgan, with its 11,000-odd employees in Arizona, said on Wednesday that the legislation 'does not reflect the values of our country or the State of Arizona and should be vetoed.' The national bank Wells Fargo also opposed it, along with Apple, Marriott and other big corporations with significant Arizona-based investments."

The story goes to say that "business leaders in Arizona and Washington called the campaign to kill 1062 a moment of triumph for the corporate world, and a reflection of how the need to attract talented employees and project a tolerant image to consumers has overridden virtually any other political imperative businesses face in a state like Arizona."

Check it out.
KC's View:
Go figure. Tolerance is good business.