An American flag and an LGBTQ flag. (Blanca Florance/Flickr)
The U.S. is insanely politically divided right now -- just look at the wild support for both extreme conservative Donald Trump and super liberal Bernie Sanders. But the divisiveness isn't limited to just the presidential race.
Several Republican-led states have passed wide-reaching anti-LGBT laws, outlawing anti-discrimination policies and policing restroom use. But pro-LGBT businesses and groups are hitting back hard, and the states are feeling the backlash.
Here's everything you need to know about the new anti-LGBT laws and their effects.
Wait -- what does LGBT stand for?
LGBT cookies. (Le Dolci -Fun Foodie Studio/Flickr)
The acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender. The letter Q is often appended to signify Queer (or, according to some, Questioning). It's often used as a blanket term for all non-straight and non-cis individuals. (If you're cis, that means you match the gender you were assigned at birth.)
A political cartoon about the new bathroom laws in North Carolina. (DSL art and photos/Flickr)
What's the law?
The new NC law banned any legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace.
Why would North Carolina pass a law like this? The state's largest city, Charlotte, passed a city ordinance against discrimination that let people to choose which bathroom they use. Conservatives in the North Carolina government wanted to overturn Charlotte's ordinance as quickly as possible, and created the new law -- which also bans any city from passing anti-discrimination laws.
That's right. No city in North Carolina can pass a law preventing their LGBT citizens from being discriminated against. In other words, that discrimination is totally legal.
State legislators argue that Charlotte's ordinance would allow men to enter women's bathrooms under the guise of being transgender and commit sexual assault.
By the way, there's no evidence that ever happens. In fact, the person most at risk in a bathroom is the trans person, not the other people in the restroom.
So it's pretty much just straight-up fear mongering.
What was the reaction?
Looks like North Carolina is paying a serious price -- literally. Online-payment company PayPal plans to cancel an operation center in the state, which would have added $3.6 million and 400 new jobs to the local economy. Poof. Gone.
PayPal and 120 other business leaders signed a letter to the governor protesting the new law, and many pledged not to create any new business ventures in the state until the law is repealed.
And Bruce Springsteen even cancelled a concert in the state due to the new law.
So clearly, a lot of powerful interests -- with influence and money -- are basically punishing NC for embracing discrimination.
A graphic promoting LGBTQ equality in Mississippi. (liveloudgraphics/Flickr)
What's the law?
This law allows people and companies, such as churches or religious charities, to claim a religious reason to deny service to gay couples or transgender individuals. As in, some religious doctors don't have to treat gay people. Yep, stuff like that.
It's being called a religious freedom law -- supporters see anti-discrimination laws as discriminatory towards conservative Christians, many of whom fervently believe homosexuality and anything else not cis/straight is morally wrong.
The concept of religious freedom has a lot of supporters. (jbouie/Flickr)
They believe they should have the right to follow their religious beliefs on this issue.
What's the reaction?
The main argument against it is that following your religion shouldn't mean you get to discriminate against other people and deny them their equal rights and equal protection under the law.
Similar to what's going down in NC: Huge companies that employ thousands of Mississippians have condemned the law, including Tyson Foods, MGM Resorts International, Nissan and Toyota.
Civil rights groups have also complained about the new law, and are coming together to challenge it.
Even other states are getting into the fray. New York just banned state trips to Mississippi because of the law. (New York Mayor Bill de Blasio even hooked up with nine other mayors to build an all-mayor anti-discrimination group.)
Salesforce founder Marc Benioff is one of many business owners protesting Georgia's new anti-LGBTQ laws. (bm_adverts/Flickrs)
What's the law?
Technically, this is only a bill, or a draft of a possible law. The legislature voted "yes," but it still needed to go on to get the governor's approval to become law (more on that in a second).
Basically, the bill said that religious organizations shouldn't have to provide services that don't align with their faith. Mostly, this one is also about gay marriage -- religious leaders and other wedding-related workers (caterers, cake-makers, flower arrangers, etc.) want the right to refuse to work at weddings between same-sex couples.
J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, defended the bill:
All Georgia citizens, organizations, and businesses need protection from adverse legislation that would infringe upon their religious beliefs regarding marriage, defined in the Bible as the union of one man and one woman.
What was the reaction?
Many groups and organizations threatened to leave the state. The Human Rights Campaign urged Hollywood to stop filming in Georgia (Georgia raked in $1.7 billion from filming in the state last year), and the NFL suggested they won't hold a Super Bowl in Georgia if it passes the law.
Other sports organizations, such as the NCAA and several Atlanta sports teams, have condemned the law. And over 500 businesses, including at least 21 Fortune 500 companies, formed Georgia Prospers, a group dedicated to urging the governor to veto the bill.
The backlash became so strong that Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, a Republican, vetoed the bill two weeks after the state legislature passed it. He said,
I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, which I and my family have been a part of for generations.
What does all this mean?
It means that though there has been a high level of conservative backlash regarding more liberal policies towards the LGBTQ community.
But money talks, and LGBTQ-friendly businesses are putting major pressure on these state governments.
The situation also reveals companies' political power in the United States, and lays bare how politics aren't decided by votes alone. Makes you think, doesn't it?
This article was written by Alison Maney and originally appeared on Kicker. Kicker explains the most important, compelling things going on in the world and empowers you to get in the know, make up your own mind, and take action. For more, check out the Kicker site, like their Facebook page, or subscribe to their email newsletter.