Back in July, I wrote a piece speculating about the high price Montanans would pay for the kind of bigotry Greg Gianforte and the Republican Legislature would bring to the state, using the example of Indiana to illustrate my point. If you haven’t read the recent Buzzfeed piece about Mr. Gianforte’s support for bigotry, it’s still worth a read—or you could take a peek at my post from a few months back. In short, in addition to speaking against anti-discrimination efforts and funding groups hostile to equal rights, Mr. Gianforte supports legislation that will allow people to claim a religious justification for discrimination.
A recent report from the Associated Press put an actual price on the cost of that form of discrimination in Indiana at $60 million:
Indiana may have lost as much as $60 million in hotel profits, tax revenue and other economic benefits when a dozen groups decided against hosting conventions in Indianapolis last year due at least in part to the controversy surrounding the state’s religious objections law. A document prepared by the tourism group Visit Indy shows that the 12 out-of-state groups were surveyed and all said that the state’s controversial law played a role in their decision to hold their events elsewhere. The document was obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its formal release Thursday.
One of the most direct ways people can express this displeasure about legislation is simple: they’ll choose to spend their dollars elsewhere. Arizona learned that lesson when it repeatedly showed its unwillingness to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and Indiana is learning now that telling people they aren’t welcome because of their sexuality will keep them away. Because we’re at least a few years from Gianforte’s dream of turning every Montana high school graduate into a call center operator, the state will continue to rely heavily on tourist dollars, and we can’t let some extremists drive them away.
In his recent interview with the Lee papers, Gianforte refused to answer whether he would repeal Governor Bullock’s recent executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity for state employees. It’s a safe bet that when someone refuses to express their beliefs about discrimination, it’s certainly not because they are boldly going to stand up for what is right. In Gianforte’s case, his own words and actions make clear that he not only will permit discrimination, but act to make it legal.
Mr. Gianforte wants to make this election about business issues, as if the function of government is merely to facilitate the transfer of wealth from the working class to those with more, but government must do more. It must act to protect the rights of citizens, and act especially forcefully on behalf of those who have faced historical discrimination and abuse and face both today. Don’t let Mr. Gianforte’s unwillingness to loudly proclaim his support for bigotry now that he’s a candidate fool you: he will sign legislation that hurts Montana’s economy and, more importantly, hurt the idea that all of us deserve equal protection under the law and decent treatment.