March 30, 2016 at 2:30 pm EDT | by Mark Lee
Business expands its leading role in LGBT equality
business LGBT equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Enterprise has assumed a leading role in both advancing and defending LGBT equality across the country.

Thank goddess for business.

Although it galls left-leaning advocates and fringe-worthy gay rights political groups, it is increasingly clear that enterprise has assumed a leading role in both advancing and defending LGBT equality across the country.

Business does so because it makes good economic sense. It enables firms to recruit from an under-35 talent pool in which eight-of-10 support civil rights for gays and lesbians like a sizable majority of all Americans, locate employees in jurisdictions providing civic acceptance younger and less-youthful workers alike demand, and streamline human resources administration while maintaining uniform benefit programs and working environments.

This is especially true as LGBT organizations dwindle in number, shrink in size, and shrivel activities as a result of the winning of most rights and protections among a population majority and a momentum-fueling Supreme Court marriage equality ruling.

Most important, the contribution by the business community has proven particularly important and uniquely successful in places least conducive for winning battles or preserving victories.

This dynamic was illustrated two years ago in Arizona when then-Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a so-called religious freedom bill. Brewer acknowledged that strong opposition by the state’s business community, including small and moderate-sized enterprise and national corporations, persuaded her to halt legislation that would have allowed service denial to gays and lesbians if doing so posed a conflict with a business operator’s religious beliefs.

A similar bill in Kansas was set aside by the state legislature for the same reason the same month Brewer wielded her veto pen. Last week, however, Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law a narrowly focused bill allowing religious groups at colleges and universities to deny membership to LGBT students that failed to generate much advance awareness.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence likely dashed any hopes he may have had about running for president, or possibly being re-elected this fall, when blindsided last year by a tidal wave of in-state business opposition after signing a Religious Freedom Restoration Act that codified anti-gay discrimination in excess of protections under the federal version. He was forced to push the state legislature to pass a bill granting protections for LGBT Hoosiers and visitors after a campaign led by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and engaging businesses both large and small throughout the state, alongside national corporations and sports leagues, pummeled him.

Pence was further humiliated when Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson refused to sign a religious liberty law after state businesses and national companies, including Walmart, publicly pressured him. Hutchinson later signed compromise legislation restating existing federal law.

This week, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a religious liberty bill that countenanced discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people by church officials, religious organizations and faith-based groups. He did so after overwhelming state and national business opposition to the measure grew to a crescendo.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory resisted entreaties by enterprise in the state and elsewhere to veto a bill passed during a special statehouse session last week. The measure preempts local LGBT civil protections, rescinding laws approved in Charlotte and other cities, and requires transgender persons to use public restrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate. The latter creates new social dilemmas and no practical solution when involving multi-user facilities.

Gov. McCrory did so despite opposition by state businesses and national corporations, including an NBA threat to relocate next year’s All-Star game, on a likely mistaken gamble voter support for his reelection required it. State Attorney General Roy Cooper, running against McCrory, announced Tuesday morning that he won’t defend the law against court challenge.

In addition to court intervention, there are now two primary factors that wield the greatest influence in guaranteeing fair treatment for gays and lesbians across the country: the demonstrable effect that knowing us has on garnering acceptance and the impact of business on advancing assimilation for all.

Nowadays, the rest is mostly fluff.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at [email protected].

1 Comment
  • It’s about time business speak up for our rights rather than remain silent as it has for so long a time. Yet, where is that massive business support in Congress to push for the Equality Act and demand that the GOP stop hosing it up? Of course, we need a President in place willing to sign it (“m assuming it won’t happen while Obama is still in office).

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