“The labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature, spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. aptly observed.
No doubt he would add “LGBTQ-hater” and “LBGTQ-baiter” if he were alive today.
In Indiana, one of our northern neighbors, right-wing, union-busting Republican Gov. Mike Pence evidently is still happy he signed the “right to work” law his equally right-wing, union-busting, GOP-majority legislature passed in 2012.
But he’s not smiling Mike just now.
Pence is taking a ton of heat – and rightly so – for inking that bill critics say paves the way for legal discrimination against anybody who isn’t heterosexual.
Pence’s detractors say that under the legislation, disingenuously named the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” a business owner can claim “religious freedom” to deny service to persons who are lesbian, gay, bi, transgendered or who are questioning their sexuality.
I wonder. Could that same business owner cite “religious freedom” to turn away a customer like me – a heterosexual – because I pack a union card? After all, a lot of Religious Righties seem to think we union folks have horns, forked tails and are in league with Old Scratch.
“Unions are one of the organizations leading the world to wickedness,” said Tim Lahaye, who helped start the Moral Majority. “Christians have a responsibility to submit to the authority of their employers since they are designated as part of God’s plan for the exercise of authority on the earth by man,” the Christian Coalition claimed.
There’s still a considerable crossover between the Religious Right and the union-busting right.
Anyway, for cravenly caving to the Religious Right bigots, Pence is getting what he richly deserves: the scorn of a nation. I know the Good Book says we’re not to rejoice in the misfortune of others. Lord forgive this this lifelong Kentuckian and multi-generation Presbyterian. But I am relishing every minute of Pence’s self-inflicted misery.
The governor’s naysayers, by the way, include the Indianapolis Star, which endorsed him for election in 2012. In a now famous front-page editorial, the paper declared:
“We urge Gov. Pence and lawmakers to stop clinging to arguments about whether RFRA really does what critics fear; to stop clinging to ideology or personal preferences; to focus instead on fixing this.”
Meanwhile, Pence criticizes his many critics as “intolerant.” But “that dog won’t hunt,” Jason Linkins and Ryan Grim write in The Huffington Post:
“Protestations of intolerance aside, Pence is fully entitled to believe that gay people are icky, or Godless, or whatever he wants. He just can’t — without criticism — enshrine the right to discriminate into the law. No one is stopping anyone from having these opinions, coming on television to express that opinion, or even holding office while possessing these views. You just can’t have a whites-only lunch counter, or a straights-only bakery. Or, perhaps in Indiana, you can, but if you do, then people who are being discriminated against have a right to encourage people to take their business elsewhere and criticize those business practices. And those on the receiving end of that reaction will, unfortunately, have to tolerate that.”
At the same time he’s criticizing his critics, Pence, a possible GOP presidential contender for next year, is beseeching his allies in the legislature to modify the bill. Whether lawmakers will give him cover and do so remains to be seen.
But I’m proud – though not surprised — to see union leaders like Indiana State AFL-CIO President Brett Voorhies demanding the repeal of the measure in no uncertain terms. Dr. King would be proud to see it, too.
Bigotry has no place in union ranks. Equality for all is a fundamental principle of organized labor. Dr. King knew that.
He also would have had a message for Gov. Pence – and for union-busters elsewhere, including Kentucky, on right to work. Speaking in 1961, he warned:
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. It is supported by Southern segregationists who are trying to keep us from achieving our civil rights and our right of equal job opportunity.
“Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”