What Do Seattle’s Gay Council Members Think of Murray’s Indiana Boycott?

As readers of this blog or my Twitter feed are no doubt aware, I feel strongly that “boycotts” on, or exhortations to “flee” from, “backward” states like Indiana hurt more than they “help” and display a basic, inexcusable ignorance of red states.

More specifically, I think saying “screw them, they’re getting what they deserve” (or even, “this boycott will teach other states that discrimination is bad for business”) fundamentally erases progressives in those states, and elides the fact that even “red states” have progressives that live there, work there, and will be hurt by any boycott of their state or the business that they own or that employ them.

Finally, I think the most effective thing politicians can do to “send a message” to states like Indiana that pass discriminatory laws is to support the organizations fighting back against those laws, especially in states, like Indiana, where rampant gerrymandering makes it all the more difficult to elect progressive officials who’ll pass good laws.

Which brings us to Mayor Ed Murray’s executive order banning all city-funded travel to Indiana. (Murray’s announcement was followed by a similar, state-level ban by Governor Jay Inslee.) Murray, obviously, supports the ban; in his announcement, he said that his executive order “sends a strong signal Seattle does not support Indiana’s discriminatory law” (the “send a message and other states will hesitate to pass anti-LGBT laws” argument).

I wondered, though, what the two LGBT members of the city council thought of the mayor’s ban. Do they think “sending a message” is enough? What about the other counterarguments — that allies in other states should help progressives in Indiana, not tell them to give up, or that blue states aren’t helping by suggesting red states like Indiana are corn-pone backwaters full of ignoramus bigots?

Sigh. Neither council member took my bait. Instead, they argued that a ban on travel sent a symbolic message, which is really the best a government can do, and that it isn’t the city’s responsibility to support specific groups in other states.

First, here’s what Rasmussen, after a long pause, had to say:

First of all, I’m just really appalled by the statements coming from the governor of Indiana, and what I would describe as pathetic ignorance of basic constitutional and legal rights. To argue, in this day and age, that because of your religion it’s OK to discriminate against people in very basic accommodations—that is disgusting.

I support clear and strong action on the part of the city. Spending any of our public dollars or time in a state that blatantly says, “Go ahead and discriminate, just say it’s against your religious views to provide your services or accommodations to people,” those kinds of justifications have been thrown out time and time and time again by the courts. Strong statements are important. Boycotts tend to be broad-brushed, there’s no question about that. But sometimes a boycott is the strongest statement you can make.

I lived in in for three years. That’s where I went to law school. It’s a pretty tough state, in the sense that they’re extremely conservative. Indiana does not have a good reputation with civil rights. I have no problem criticizing them when they make these incredibly hostile decisions with regard to discrimination. This is part of their history and legacy, and they’re continuing to do it today in the LGBT community.

Is it harming folks that would not be harmed? It is, undoubtedly. There are good people, of course, who I’m sure are very embarrassed and appalled by what the legislature and the governor of this state have done, and we should support them.

I guess I would like to hear from LGBT individuals from Indiana about what they think about the reaction.

Rasmussen’s colleague Clark, meanwhile, acknowledged the “tinge about the middle states vs. the coasts, the elitist east and west vs. ‘those simple people in the middle,” but said she ultimately supported the mayor’s decision.

If you’re a private company, like an Angie’s List (which put an Indiana expansion on hold) or an Apple or a Costco, you have a little bit more freedom to decide to use your philanthropic arm to do that kind of work. If you’re the government, if you’re the gay mayor of a major city, you don’t have a philanthropic arm to say, “I’m going to use my city resources to bolster equality in Indiana.” What I can control is whether the budget of the city supports state-sponsored discrimination.

I think the point is to try to continue to focus attention. There’s no great big travel budget for city employees rushing from Seattle to Indiana, but by doing it and trying to focus attention, he’s contributing to people who oppose discrimination in Indiana.