Pink Dollar Takes on The Bible Belt

While we look with horror at the situation in Uganda, Nigeria and Russia for LGBT people, it seems that the hardline Republican strongholds in the USA are turning more LGBT friendly. This is partly as a result of the Pink Dollar, as gays and lesbians increasingly take over hotels, diners and restaurants in Texas and Arizona; but is also in part because of the power of big businesses to veto or reject local lawmakers who try to introduce anti-LGBT legislation at state level.
The Observer yesterday ran an article revealing that the High Street of Blue Ridge, Georgia is festooned with a “hub of gourmet restaurants and boutique stores popular with visitors, creating an island of prosperity in a region hit by the decline of logging and the closure of a Levi’s denim factory”. One of their proprietors, Jack Morton, runs several businesses with his partner in both senses Michael Brunson.  But Morton is also chairman of the county chamber of commerce’s tourism committee, sits on the economic development authority and helps organise events, including a 4 July parade that features a marching band in drag. “It’s a riot,” he says. This in a Bible-belt town that used to say gays had to “hide or leave”.
The NY Times reports that Arizona’s Republican lawmakers tried to introduce a law permitting florists and caterers to refuse to offer their services for same sex weddings, arguing that this was in the interests of religious freedom. Republican Governor Jan Brewer, however, rejected it on the grounds that it would create more problems than it would solve. But in reality this change of heart came from pressure from airlines, hotels, professional basketball teams and other big businesses with operations in Arizona.
The movement for gay rights gained another victory in Texas when a federal judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriages. And in Washington, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. plunged into the bitter debate when he declared in an interview that state attorneys general were not obliged to defend state same-sex marriage bans.