PayPal's decision to abandon plans for a brand new $3.6m global operation centre in North Carolina is bad news for the state's economy. With 400 potential jobs and a significant boost to local wages at stake, PayPal's move is symbolic of the battle-lines being redrawn in the fight for full LGBTQ+ equality.
In truth, PayPal's change of heart is a principled one, a direct response to the passage of the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act. The bill represents a grave attack on LGBTQ+ equality, providing for the prohibition of local equality ordinances and the requirement that trans people use the toilets corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate. This puts LGB people in the situation whereby they may marry, yet possibly face unfettered discrimination in the workplace. On the menu for trans people is the threat of humiliation, misgendering, even violence each time nature calls when not at home.
The fact that a well-known global entity such as PayPal is willing to place paramount importance on the wellbeing and safety of its employees is to be celebrated. Economic activism can, and indeed should, form an integral strand of our regrettable, yet all too real, ongoing struggle for full equality in all areas of life. Where authorities legislate in favour of discriminatory practices, policies and procedures, companies must refuse to pay in. To act otherwise amounts to a betrayal of LGBTQ+ employees and the community at large. The sad truth is that PayPal is highly likely to be an exception to the rule in its seizure of the moral high-ground.
Other companies have far fewer scruples, readily placing profit above people. In these cases, collective bargaining could force employers to enact equality policies that do not take heed of the insidious discriminatory law-making instigated at local level. Industrial action could play its part in forcing businesses, many of which issue regular fluffy declarations of adherence to the principles of equality, to put their money where their mouth is.
Hop across the pond and examine the status quo here in the UK. Devolved government in Northern Ireland has accorded power to right-wing, Bible-wielding unionist politicians to halt the progress made towards LGBTQ+ equality. They have refused to legislate for marriage equality and to end the ban on men who have sex with men (MSM) blood donation.
The 'PayPal principle' could be applied with equal validity on this side of the Atlantic and would undoubtedly be successful in convincing Stormont that making citizens unequal before the law in any way, shape or form renders investment untenable.
Ultimately, the pull of the Pink Pound remains undiminished. Those of us with a semblance of critical thought are tuned into the disingenuous way in which LGBTQ+ people are often courted in an attempt to persuade them to part with their cash. It is precisely for this reason that activists must diversify their strategy to attack governments where it hurts, in the areas of job growth and maintenance of a stable tax base, particularly in this era of almost constant economic instability.
Only then will those in power fully appreciate the consequences of their actions and the devastating impact their law-making can have on the lives of LGBTQ+ people.
This post was originally published on The Independent Voices.