It would seem that Greg Gianforte’s sole qualification for his apparent aspiration to sit in the governor’s chair is that he ran a successful business. While he certainly did run a company and make a great deal of money, electing someone with Mr. Gianforte’s commitment to discrimination would do serious damage to the economy and reputation of the state of Montana.
As has become clear in the past few years, Mr. Gianforte cares about two things: self-promotion and discriminating against the LGBTQ community. When he’s not touring the state to talk about telecommuting, he’s investing his time, money, and reputation into campaigns to deny equal rights to people because of their sexual orientation.
He and his foundation have donated millions of dollars to radically anti-gay organizations like the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a hate group for its virulently anti-gay rhetoric and policy proposals, and the Alliance Defending Freedom, the nation’s largest anti-LGBT legal advocacy group, one that opposes restrictions on bullying and promotes the idea of the freedom to discriminate.
Closer to home, he bankrolls the Montana Family Foundation, which spends every legislative session spreading its hate at the Capitol.
His words speak as loudly as his bank account. Gianforte, opposing a non-discrimination ordinance in Bozeman, wrote the mayor and city council that he believes businesses are more supportive of communities that aren’t friendly to homosexuals:
“Homosexual advocates try to argue that businesses are leery of locating in towns that aren’t friendly to homosexuals. I believe the opposite is truer.”
During Bozeman’s debate on their ordinance, Gianforte pressed for four amendments that echo the language of so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA) that have rolled across the country in the past few years. In fact, the Montana Family Foundation tried to pass the same bill here in Montana.
The record is clear: Mr. Gianforte believes in the right to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And it is his support for this kind of legislation that would do so much damage to the state.
And while I find Mr. Gianforte’s personal religious views absurd and hateful, he has every right to them as a private citizen. As a governor, though, those views would likely be devastating to Montana’s economy, as businesss and tourists would be far less likely to support a state associated with a discriminatory agenda. Gianforte would be elevated from a loudmouth with a big megaphone to the voice and face of the state of Montana.
Indiana provides an instructive example of what Montana could look forward to under a Gianforte administration. When the state passed its RFRA law, the state took a series of economic and public relations hits, that put $256.5 million dollars or more at risk.
A quick look at Indiana reveals that the cost of this kind of discriminatory policy can be enormous, and long-lasting. From The Indianapolis Star:
“People may not remember why it is that they have a negative perception of Indiana — but that perception could still linger,” said Kyle Anderson, an economist with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Factor in the possible loss of conventions, tourism and reduced investment from major employers like Salesforce, Anderson said, and “it doesn’t take you long to get into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Some of those decisions can really be long lasting.”
In the wake of Indiana passing its RFRA law, companies across the state—and nation–said they didn’t want to do business in the state. Angie’s List said it would pull 1,000 jobs, diesel manufacturer Cummins said it was “bad for business and bad for Indiana,” and the NCAA talked about reducing its presence in the state, just to name a few.
In fact, one of Greg Gianforte’s business rivals from a decade ago , Marc Benioff of Salesforce, took the lead against Indiana’s law, threatening to terminate all business with the state and leading other tech companies to follow.
In short order, Indiana became a state no one wanted to do business with.
If Montana elects Governor Gianforte, we can be sure that he will do everything in his power to pass his discriminatory worldview through a likely Republican Legislature, and we can be equally sure that the high tech companies Gianforte thinks he can bring to the state will respond the same way they did in Indiana: with boycotts and public condemnation. Tourists won’t think of our majestic views and friendly people; they’ll wonder if Montana really welcomes everybody and if the bigoted views of the governor reflect the values of the people of the state.
Mr. Gianforte is wrong about the discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community; he’s wrong about the laws that should protect us all. Let’s hope he’s wrong about the values of Montanans, who value our reputation and respect for the dignity and rights of our friends and neighbors.
It’s important that we don’t let him do damage to our state’s economy. It’s even more important that we don’t let him do damage to the way the rest of the country and the rest of the world see us.